An apocalyptic painter and fierce social critic, Frank Bruno's work and thinking have been fueled by his study of Messianic and end of the world books and preaching. Born March 22, 1925 on a ranch just outside of Douglas, Arizona (50 miles south of Tombstone) to parents of Italian American heritage. Bruno's Mother, Rose, was pregnant with Frank when her eldest son George, age 14, was killed in an automobile accident. Frank remembers she kept his brother's bloodstained clothes in a trunk for years. Suffering from severe asthma as a child, Frank spent his days indoors, obsessed with drawing pictures of war: soldiers marching and in combat, and aircraft and battleships engaged in fighting. Raised during the Depression when paper was scarce, Frank's mother would collect used paper from the butcher shops, wash the blood off, and dry them in the desert sun for young Frank to make his pictures. When Frank was 15, his mother purchased a hotel in Douglas, against her husband's wishes. They later separated, and she ran it as a successful business.
Two months after Pearl Harbor, young Frank enlisted in the Navy. Before his 18th birthday, he crossed the International Date Line four times and the Equator seven. Looking back, he feels that the war years were the only time he felt "truly alive." In 1947, Frank attempted to enroll on the GI Bill at two Los Angeles art schools, but was deemed untalented and was refused admission at both. He later embarked on a nine-year period of mail order art correspondence courses and began a career as a commercial artist. However, after 15 successful years in this field, Bruno gradually began to realize that making commercial art was not what he had been put on earth to do. He sold one painting to a top art collector via a New York gallery, but hated the people who ran the gallery and angrily ceased to continue working with them. Bruno spends years creating each of his complex paintings and now refuses to sell them, even when the likes of admirer Johnny Depp asks for the privilege. Walter Hopps, the legendary curator, gave Bruno a gallery show in Washington D.C. and remained an enthused believer in his work.
Increasingly concerned by world politics, greed and immorality, Frank moved back to the desert, into his late mother's turn of the century hotel in Arizona, maintaining the guest rooms and saloon in immaculate condition, but without any guests. Cigar smoking, Frank occupied one room in the hotel as his painting studio for many years. Frank's work reflects his belief in the biblical prophesy that only one-third of the earth's population will survive the seven-year period of The Great Tribulation, "a time when mankind will mistakenly embrace the Antichrist, and the Gates of Hell open wide to receive its own." Bruno sees himself as a modern-day watchman, who's duty is to alert people to the approaching evil and destruction—a sentiment echoed in the work of many end of the world focused visionaries, like the late Reverend Howard Finster who declared himself, "God's last red light before the Apocalypse."
Frank says, "I see danger—awake! It's terrible, it's horrible, and it's almost here! This is why my spirit was sent to earth. This is the job God has given me. This is the job I must do, so my hands will be free of your blood."
To learn more about Frank Bruno, you can read this article that ran in the Douglas Dispatch (December 18, 2003).