There is something quietly catastrophic in Portland native Michael Brophy’s vision of the Northwest, the way economic and environmental forces have altered the landscape for generations. The overfished streams, the clear-cut forests, the chainsawed sculptures of historical figures, a bear, convey a haunting finality, like pictures of a crime scene, which, in a way, they are. The image of the view off a lonely jetty, the moon rising over a swath of desert, a haunting on-the-road highwayscape, capture a sense of isolation and introspection, a yearning for something, someone, some other time. The tragedy here is clear, but Brophy doesn’t deal in tears, or finger wagging or foot stomping. Sometimes there’s humor, dark as pitch or blacktop, or a starless night sky, and always a sense that even in disaster, something is salvageable.
The story behind the trauma that inspired the remarkable image on our cover, “Kitchen Painting #14,” was a fire that destroyed Brophy’s house and studio in 2007. Part of a series, these works, gouache on paper, are by necessity smaller than his usual works, painted at a kitchen table, and portable.
–Elissa Schappell, Tin House magazine Editor-at-Large
Check out more of Brophy’s work online.