I first saw the above painting on the 3-D Monsters blog, which told me the name of the artist who painted it: John Brosio. I initially thought that the painting was a tribute of sorts to the giant monster movies of the 50s and/or the stop-motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien. After doing some more research on Brosio, it turns out that I was kind of right but there's more going on in this painting--much, much more. Read on for more information about this unique artist, his influences, and some additional examples of his work.
The giant crab painting is titled "Fatigue 2". Its predecessor in the series, "Fatigue" (see below) features a giant octopus much like the one seen in Harryhausen's It Came From Beneath The Sea, although this super-sized, sea-faring cephalopod appears to prefer suburbia over the San Francisco bay.
While these two paintings suggest that Brosio is a painter of giant monsters, that's neither entirely correct nor incorrect. Brosio's main interests are larger-than-life monsters of an all too real variety: tornadoes. When you go to his site to see his work, he has four galleries of paintings devoted to tornadoes, each portrayed in a wide variety of colors, shapes and settings. Thus, the giant monster paintings are thematic parallels to the tornado paintings: they both depict massive disasters (either in their beginnings or in progress), with the tornado paintings operating on the literal level and the monster paintings operating on the metaphorical. Another curious detail is that in both sets of paintings, the people who appear in them appear mostly indifferent in reaction to what they are seeing. As mentioned in Bonnie Gangelhoff's 2003 interview with Brosio in Southwest Art magazine:
The tornado is both a thing of terrible beauty and a metaphor for modern life, as far as Brosio is concerned. “My tornado paintings seem to move back and forth between two pursuits—an inquiry into the phenomenon itself and its use as an element of allusion in allegory,” he says. In many ways his paintings are scenes from movies that don’t exist. More often than not they are composites of tornadoes he has witnessed and various elements from his everyday life and imagination. ... But that isn’t all. As with many of Brosio’s works, there is more going on than meets the eye at first glance. ... (P)eople appear oblivious to the tornado hovering overhead. They mill about—life goes on in spite of the danger. The work is also a comment on how people view violence, Brosio says, and the tornado is a symbol of that violence. “People are numb to violence in this country, and they don’t want to see it,” he says. “Violence has become so accepted that they say, ‘Oh, it’s just happening there. Let’s just walk around it.’”The Brosio interview is fascinating to read, and it reveals quite a few insights about Brosio's inspirations and professional background. For example, Brosio interned in the Creature Department at Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) special effects studio at one point in his career. He was later commissioned by Lucasfilm in 2006 to produce "Redemption" (see below) as part of the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga. Go to Brosio's site to learn more about "Redemption" and other examples of his commissioned art.
The interview also mentions another recurring theme in Brosio's work, the depiction of things that are both beautiful and dangerous. This not only applies to Brosio's paintings of the tornados, but also to his paintings of various animals (such as snakes, scorpions and sharks) and his ghoulish series of "Fatherless Bride (1-5)" paintings, as seen below.