Live Oak

Like the calm before a storm, Brian Mashburn‘s scenes are tranquil yet unsettling. He draws a contrast between the man made and the natural, creating an invisible divide highlighted by a use of perspective. As an audience, we cannot help but take the time to examine every subtlety of Mashburn’s world. There, among the thistle and sky, lies a profound symbolism that graces every piece of his.

Brian has created an environment that is present in a majority of his work- a wistful suburbia on the edge of a city, highlighted by fading tower spirals and telephone poles. This place is somewhere between damnation and the early morning. The focus is usually animals, some of which should seem out of place among the gothic cathedral silhouettes and industrial ruin, but instead only intensify the visual experience. These animals, whether they be lions or roosters, exude a kind of fortitude not known to man as they loom over the fading evidence of humanity. The presence of fallen electrical lines and construction cranes hints at modernity, leading to a haunting realization that this could be a reflection of our present and our future. Sometimes Mashburn’s sky seems to be falling down on the city below.

Pairing a background of desertion with a foreground of life, Brian quietly outlines a separation of worlds, and the power struggle at the center of our prominence on this planet. Sometimes he paints humans standing and studying the roaring skies, knee deep in fog and their own insignificance. I especially love two works titled “Sacred Burro Study” and “Sacred Burro.” In the former, a donkey rests in the sun’s shadow, not yet at its destination, and not necessarily having one. In the latter, the same donkey stands with a burden strapped to its back, facing an abandoned roller coaster in a ravaged valley. Ravaged by what we don’t know; it could have been fire, it could have been time, or it could have been a final, collective mistake on the part of man.

The “Sacred Burro” painting was based on ‘Alf the Sacred Burro’ from Keruoac’s “Big Sur. The breed is a Sicilian donkey, they have a cross-shaped stripe across their shoulders; lore has it that Jesus rode a Sicilian donkey into Jerusalem and ever since they have sported those markings. I figured if I was painting a ‘Sacred Burro’ may as well make it that breed. The piece was shown in a group exhibition in San Francisco so I wanted some Bay Area elements in it, hence the Big Sur reference. The background is loosely based on Hetch-Hetchy, the valley adjacent to Yosemite that was flooded in order to provide water for SF and the Bay Area.

-Brian Mashburn

Brian Mashburn is deeply in touch with the nature of the world he lives in. There is intelligence in his artwork, as well as enigma, serenity, and a sense of admonition. The subject is suspended in an impeccable silence; a rushing quiet that I can hear clearly. To check out more of Brian’s work, visit


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