March 2019

Tumbleweed Eclipse

Tumbleweed Eclipse
2018, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 44 in.

Tumbleweed Eclipse

The development of the idea for Tumbleweed Eclipse is an interesting story. It began one day when I was driving down a local freeway. As I passed through an underpass made of concrete and gravel I noticed a tumbleweed rolling along the side of the road. The sight of this living organism surviving in such a desolate environment struck me as strangely wonderful and made me speculate about how I could use the experience creatively. I soon hit upon the idea that it would be interesting to see a tumbleweed made out of barbed wire. I had just used barbed wire in my previous painting, Remnants of War and felt using it again would be a way to explore the form. Excited by this I imagined the possibility of other forms encased, trapped and bound inside the barbed wire and thought this would lead to a more compelling image. But what would the other forms be? While considering the options I naturally thought about the various forms I had recently used and quickly settled on images of infants, snakes, fish and birds.

All this led to the creation of a tumbleweed "world" made of these forms. The concept of a creating a world, or a celestial body, is not new to my work. In Mappa Mundi (1998) I depicted a large rotund figure floating in space as a de facto celestial body with the figure having the "map of the world" tattooed on him. Later, in The Dying Son (2009) I portrayed a figure in a spherical fetal position floating in space as another celestial body and titled the piece to be a play on the word "son" versus "sun". Because these two previous canvases used a single celestial body in space I thought it would be more interesting if I used two of them. At that point creating an eclipse came to mind. It was the perfect solution.

Mappa Mundi
1998, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 48 in.

The Dying Son
2009, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 44 in.

With the basic composition set I started working on the canvas. As the image developed the tumbleweed took on the form of a wheel with three infants, three fish, and three birds all entangled by three snakes. With it structured in this way the wheel seems to rotate much like the earth rotates. And to heighten the notion of it being the world I used forms that have symbolic meanings. For example, the fish represent water, birds represent air, snakes represent earth, and the infants represent humankind. Also, the use of three of each of these forms is symbolic for what I think of as the "family triad" or the mother, father, and child unit. In addition, at the center hub of the wheel is a nuclear symbol made of red ropes representing the energy core of the world. Finally, as the painting neared completion I decided not follow my original intention to use barbed wire to encase the other forms. My reasoning was that I felt the forms and their rotating effect achieved a simple, pure, and strong image of the world and that the introduction of the barbed wire would not only detract from that clarity but also add a harshness that would detract from the overall image.

The creative process for Tumbleweed Eclipse began with a casual and unexpected experience. That experiential beginning however is only one way I begin a work. Sometimes it is through the inspiration of a musical composition, a literary source, a past sketch, or even the contemplation of a single word. As such the beginning of the process is varied and unpredictable. But no matter how a work begins the process always leads to what I like to think of as a building phase - a seemingly endless series of decisions that eventually coalesce in the completion of the work. In the end I see the creative process as a joyful, wonder-filled, and sometimes arduous journey to form, define, and articulate an art object.

- Brian Mains, 2018