and a spectacular four-story sculpture made
of steel girders and scrap metal from junkyards and demolition projects.
Spires shoot 80 feet into the air, and the work has steel footprints
and faces suspended from chains and hooks. The entire work is painted
battleship gray – Tripp’s favorite color. There are
random letters, names, and dancing stick figures. Many view The
Mindfield as an autobiographical collection of images and symbols
relating to Tripp’s life.”
“When Billy Tripp began work on The Mindfield 15 years ago, many people in Brownsville, Tennessee, didn’t know what to make of it. . . . Nowadays visitors stop by the Chamber of Commerce asking for directions and information.”
Adkins, Tennessee Arts Commission
The Mindfield seems a paradox,
a paradox, a contradiction of significant
A work in progress, yet so solid and complete.
personal statement from its creator causing laughter in one
tears with only a slight turn of the head.
humbles you; it uplifts you; it exudes admiration while
ponder the sense of it all.
sheer size of the thing comforts even as you draw faith that its
parts will not fly away -- or tumble down as if to punish.
look up. And up again. How far does it lead? Is that truly
just beyond its highest arch? Does God rest in
suspended chair, dig with that far-reaching shovel,
bathe in that exposed tub?
and sadness. And security in feeling, feeling the
of this work calling for contemplation and serenity.
immortality of the soul could be conveyed in The Mindfield.
point, laugh, and enjoy -- its ultimate meaning just may lead
not, its moment of pleasure is well worth the experience.
-David Mathis September 2004
For the past fifteen years, The Mindfield is where a man named Billy Tripp has had what he refers to as “a conversation with myself.” With a dedication that must mirror the calling his father felt to become a Methodist minister, Billy Tripp labors tirelessly to express his innermost feelings through a work that has evolved from local curiosity into life’s work and now garners admiration on a national scale.
Billy Tripp smiles wryly as he says, “I’ll have to work a lot faster in the next fifteen years if I ever want to finish this thing.” A slight man with fair skin, his pale eyes sparkle as, without hesitation, he replies “not in the least” when asked if he cares what people think of his creation. With the conviction of a true non-comformist, he probably does not care but he is certainly curious. Not one but two metal containers labeled “comments” are available at The Mindfield. He’s tired of talking about it, answering the same questions journalists ask him over and over, but he particularly enjoyed a newspaper article in which people on the street were asked to offer their opinions of his work.
When he first began erecting his assemblage of steel beams, metal sculptures, and found objects, it must have appeared that a building was going up. Obviously one man (who turned out to be a city inspector) thought so. Billy was hard at work when he saw the man walk up and, without uttering a word, attach a piece of paper to the side facing the street. He walked around to see what it said. It spoke of there having been no building permit application and ordered that he cease and desist. Billy Tripp appeared before officials at City Hall in Brownsville, Tennessee, and explained that he was creating an outdoor metal sculpture. Perhaps he said something about it being “a conversation” because the official edict handed down was “let him ramble on.”
The Mindfield continues to expand with the fire tower currently in place and the water tower that temporarily lies in pieces next to his workshop/studio. He says he will “dress it up” to bridge the gaps between the current Mindfield proper and the new additions.
Ramble on, Billy. We’re watching and grateful to have the opportunity to eavesdrop on your fascinating conversation.
- Bill Hickerson September 2004