By Martha Keeffe  

Jim Brickl, former owner of Brickl Bros. and owner of Select Trusses & Lumber, Inc. in West Salem, has an instinctive eye for design. Not only is this aesthetic evident in the countless commercial and suburban structures he has inspired for more than 40 years, but it is also front and center in his photography. Sometimes vividly winsome while other times strikingly handsome, Brickl’s images invite the viewer to take a closer look and reflect on what’s before them.

“I like to visually expose unique elements that people wouldn’t ordinarily notice,” says Brickl, who sees beauty in everyday surroundings. “And I’m curious about how other people see them.”

For Brickl, his images represent the circle of life. “I am fascinated by the intersection of history, culture and nature—especially what effect those elements have on the remnants of the tools man created for his convenience,” say Brickl, who often visits deserted farms, industrial sites and junkyards for inspiration. It’s within these environments of solitude, where others might see nothing but scrap, that Brickl sees art among the rusty, broken-down objects. “I look at an old car and am visually inspired by limitless opportunities to turn it into art. Peeling paint can create an abstract idea, and a vehicle emblem or an identifiable body design creates nostalgia. Then there’s nature—weeds, trees—taking back its space,” he says. “Photographed together, you begin to wonder where it began and where it’s going.” 

In addition, Brickl appreciates the amount of detail that went into creating a structure or form before the advent of digital formatting and design. “Everything now is computer-driven,” he says, noting that he had the advantage of learning about the elements of composition by shooting film. “Before, people formed things with their hands, making them more artistic and personalized. The end product was a statement of the builder’s mastery.” Hoping to convey that sentiment, Brickl will often use multiple layers of an image to enhance texture, create richness and vibrancy through the use of color saturation, or draw attention to a specific detail by adjusting the depth of field. The results are stunning illustrations of time, place, and, of course, a story.

“Right here is a monster eating the family farm,” explains Brickl, pointing to a photograph that shows a cloud rising ominously up behind an abandoned barn. “This used to be a farm where people lived and worked, but here is this cloud overtaking the buildings. To me, it’s a statement of how easily the things we’ve built can be swallowed up.” In another, Brickl’s command of photography renders row upon row of broken-down, weather-worn cars into an intriguing masterpiece that causes the viewer to wonder about the people who owned the cars and how they ended up there. “Time overlaps,” says Brickl. “The people who built these cars are no longer around, but the vehicles are still here. For how much longer is up to nature.”

Though Brickl’s photography is thoughtful, his intent is not to produce images that are solely contemplative. Sometimes his message is simply to enjoy the beauty and the mystique of what surrounds us.

“I tell people that if you think what you’re looking at is great, do a 180 and turn around. You’ll be surprised at what you might have missed.”

Jim Brickl’s exhibit, The Circle of Life’s Elements, will appear at the Pump House Regional Arts Center Nov. 8 through Jan. 6. An artist reception will be held Nov. 10 from 5-7 p.m. One framed photographic print ($400 value) will be awarded to visitors every 14 days. Major sponsors include: Brickl Bros., Brenengen Auto Group, Pischke Motors Inc., Select Trusses & Lumber and State Bank Financial. Associate sponsors include: Beyer Cabinets, CPC Printing & Promo and L.I.N.K. Magazine.

Jim Brickl Art