Beautiful Bizarre Magazine is always on the lookout for visual inspiration. All day, all month, and all year long! During this unusual period in history, we’ve taken even greater solace in the spiritual elevation that art can provide. Surely you can relate, ey? Thankfully, our favourite creatives – such as Brian Mashburn – continue to lend their curatorial eye to us during our monthly TAKE OVER event. Due to their artsy caring and sharing spirit, we are able to provide our social media followers with an added dimension to their daily scroll.
Here’s how it works. Once a month, we invite an artist to fill us in on their own personal artsy revelations. This exposes all of us to creatives who may not have been on our radar before. We are also able to gain insight into how their signature aesthetic came into being.
We selected dark surrealistic oil painter Brian Mashburn for our February TAKE OVER. A gothic midnight dreary undercurrent swirls amid the mist of the U.S.-based artist’s dramatically spellbinding landscapes. His Bram Stoker Dracula ambiance immediately seduces the beholder’s eyes. At the same time, it is tempered with a soul-lifting rush of reverence for Mother Nature’s artful magnificence.
Perhaps some of Brian Mashburn’s TAKE OVER selections made your heart skip a few beats. Yes indeedy, he provided us with inspiration galore! Oh wait… you were busy that day? Good thing we’re revisiting all of his carefully curated selections within the body of this article. Read on for lots of artsy goodies, old and new!
My name is Brian Mashburn and I’m an oil painter from Asheville, North Carolina. It’s an honor and a pleasure to showcase works of art that are meaningful to me and my artistic practice.
Some of the photographs I’ve shared below seem to speak to our current experience of being humans on Earth. I also included the paintings of fellow North Carolina artists who I admire. They are a part of the larger Asheville community that I regard as my creative family. My work has also been strongly impacted by a few key monumental landscapes. Hope you enjoy!
Brian Mashburn // “Flamingos” (2019)
I wanted to create an oil painting featuring ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. That timeless allegory is, unfortunately, perennially relevant. I haven’t figured out the details of my ostrich concept quite yet. Interestingly, flamingos demonstrate a similar posture when they wade in water with their heads submerged. The main difference is the striking color of flamingos and the reflections that are cast in water.
That manifested in a scene more suitable to the kind of painting that I do. I recall how unusually smooth the process of painting “Flamingos” really was. It wasn’t quite effortless, but the elements seemed to fall into place. Gotta love when that happens. I’ll get back to the ostriches someday. For now, my ode to willful ignorance in all its glory rests with these two birds.
Mary Ellen Mark // “Hippopotamus and Performer, Great Rayman Circus, Madras, India” (1989)
Mary Ellen Mark had the rare ability to observe without judgment. That’s what I infer from looking at her photographs. I find that I remain open-minded about the subjects depicted in her work. Any actions and beliefs that may be conveyed don’t cause me to jump to conclusions. Perhaps the main reason is that Mark didn’t view her subjects as one-dimensional. She seemed to regard them as containing multitudes.
What are we to make of the “Hippopotamus and Performer”? Valid concerns regarding animal rights or labor conditions can be raised. When I look at this picture, however, I see a scene that is captivating and funny. I marvel at teeth, then tassels. I wonder if the hippo is wearing a tutu. If so, Mary made a remarkable decision to omit that from the frame.
Julyan Davis // “Wildwood Flower” (2014)
Julyan Davis came to the American South in 1988 from the UK. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina. He’s been chronicling the region in all its splendor and squalor through his 30+ years of painting and writing. He used to share so many excellent stories when dinner parties still existed.
It makes sense that much of his work is narrative-driven, and often derived from folk ballads. “Wildwood Flower” is one such example. Interestingly, after a year of COVID-19 and isolation, this painting has attained a different sort of relevance.
I am so grateful for the support and guidance that Asheville’s artist community has given me throughout the years. Of course, the pandemic has compromised face-to-face time spent talking shop with friends and colleagues. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my fellow Asheville creatives in the near future.
Margaret Curtis // “The Falconer” (2020)
“The Falconer” is a recent work by Asheville-area artist Margaret Curtis. It shines light on one aspect of the COVID-era art world. The high regard that I have for Julyan Davis and my city’s artistic community applies to her, as well.
Admittedly, I have an affinity for avian-themed artwork. Margaret’s painting is particularly compelling, though, because it is visually and conceptually complex. Her technical virtuosity is quite impressive. Margaret’s work has a variety of attributes that do not effectively translate through a screen. Seeing her paintings in person only enhances the experience. Her brushwork is bold. Her impasto is innovative. She scrapes away layers to render pattern and texture.
Viewing artwork as a physical object yields a different experience compared to viewing it on a screen. Of course, this delineation existed well before the pandemic. Unfortunately, visiting a gallery or museum these days presents a few challenges.
Guo Xi // “Early Spring” (1072)
This is one of the best known and highly revered examples of monumental landscape painting from the Northern Song Dynasty, China. That period in history was tumultuous and marked by profound social and technological change. It is analogous, in some ways, to contemporary times. Monumental landscapes were intended to offer a counterbalance to the turmoil.
Gou Xi regarded his landscapes as places where one could ramble and dwell, and possibly even find respite. Encountering the landscapes of the Song Dynasty was a revelatory experience for me. These awe-inspiring scenes have had a profound impact on my work.
Gustave Dore // “The Enigma” (1871)
“The Enigma” is one of three large allegorical canvases by Dore depicting the Franco-Prussian war. This trio includes “The Black Eagle of Prussia” and “The Defense of Paris”. Together, his series is called the “Souvenirs of 1870”. Each painting is compelling in its own right. However, “The Enigma” has a depth and complexity that doesn’t seem to be present in its companion pieces.
“The Enigma” depicts the aftermath of the war, the imagining of which was probably close at hand. Dore was an eyewitness and member of the national guard in France in 1870. The apocalyptic imagery brings to mind his illustrations of “Dante’s Inferno” published a decade prior (1861).
Dore’s use of color, or lack thereof, is effective in its subtlety. Many of his illustrations and engravings are monochromatic. He employed a masterful use of chiaroscuro. At times, his oil paintings can be quite vibrant. That is obviously not the case here. The blues in “The Enigma” appropriately carry a lot of the emotional load.
I think the absence of red on the battlefield is quite notable. It would have been a reasonable decision to artistically render blood and the colors of the French flag. He does that, to great effect, in “The Defense of Paris”. The absence of blood is what makes this painting timeless. The entangled bodies and detritus appear frozen or carved in stone. They have a permanence that propels Dore’s broader, more existential vision.
Li Huayi // “Unlimited Space, Unlimited Time” (2017)
Li Huayi is a Chinese artist whose work expands upon the Song Dynasty landscape tradition. This piece embodies the East/West duality. It becomes a bold, central subject dominating the composition – which is a western staple. He balances that by utilizing traditional Chinese materials and techniques. The concrete branch transitioning to smoke, dust or distance is such a subtle yet profound visual device.
I highly recommend other works by Li Huayi, too. They are more in the vein of the monumental landscapes that are akin to Gou Xi’s work. It is easy to meander and even get lost inside of his dramatic imagery.
Gordon Parks // “Off On My Own” (1948)
Gordon Parks was an American photographer, musician, writer, and director. He was a true renaissance man. His photographs document a prolonged period of struggle and civil rights activism. He captured vast inequalities that are apparent to this day.
Parks’ work transcends photojournalism. He understood the influential power inherent in a photograph. His images are compassionate and humanizing. His eye is empathetic and respectful.
The poetry and power of Gordon Parks’ work rests in the humanity that he captures through the lens. He presents his often maligned and marginalized subjects as vulnerable, intimately human characters. He gives them power by highlighting their dimension, depth and value.
This is the final image that Brian Mashburn selected for his Beautiful Bizarre social media TAKE OVER. Thank you Brian for compiling such intriguing visual stimulation for our art community. Your effort and generosity are greatly appreciated!