“The Mindfield” is the creation and life’s work of Brownsville, Tennessee artist Billy Tripp. The structure was begun in 1989 and will continue to evolve until Billy’s death, at which point it will become the site
of his interment. Included in the network
of steel are individual pieces representing various events and periods of
Billy’s life, especially the death of his father, Rev. Charles Tripp, in
2002. One of the latest large additions, a water tower
salvaged from a defunct factory in Western Kentucky, was dismantled, transported
and reconstructed single-handedly by the artist. It now stands as a memorial to Billy’s
parents as well as a testimonial to his current life, his belief in the
inherent beauty of our world, and the importance of tolerance in our communities
and governmental systems.
Billy’s book, The Mindfield Years, is a further representation
of his life told through the voices of three main characters and their efforts
to find meaning, purpose, and contentment in the existence to which they were born. Written in stream of consciousness style, the
novel contains elements of short story, poetry, philosophy, and psychology all of which are intermingled into a multi-layered yet deceptively simple tale. Billy is currently at work on volume two of
this series, his “Goodbye.”
Beth Shaw Tripp
“There…is no one to relinquish tonight;
there is nothing to give up.
I…have seen the stars, and the moon, and now,
I hear music. There
are crickets creaking.
There are dark outlines of trees against the sky,
but the sky goes on; I have seen the heavens, and now,
I can see forever; perhaps, it is all there;
perhaps it is here.
Tonight I do not believe I will
leave anything, I will take it all, even then and tomorrow.
I shall live, and, the night, the day, is all;
I will become the Heavens; the Earth; I will not
give it up,
Frequently Asked Questions:
How were you trained as an artist?
I'm really self-trained for the most part, but I did take art classes at the University of Memphis as well as Jackson State Community College.
Do you work in other areas of design?
I have done some painting and sculpting in the past, but now I concentrate on my metalwork and my writing.
What inspired you to begin The Mindfield?
Well, we have to do something while we're here. I like to work with my hands and to custom make things and the Mindfield allows me to do both of these in a way that also is never quite finished.
Do you work on it every day?
No, my work on The Mindfield is more seasonal, usually in the summer months. Most of my other time is spent writing or wondering why I don't work more.
Where do you get your steel?
For the most part it is remnant steel from big fabricators and from businesses that have closed. I get much by just keeping my eyes open to opportunities along the way, such as the roadside water tank passed by while on vacation. Perhaps of interest are trusses from Brownsville's Ritz Theater and Dixon Auto Parts, surplus steel from Southwest Electric Corporation and CSX Railroad, and from Memphis, steel from the building demolished to make room for the Pyramid as well as trusses from an old Pinch District building. Also, the fire tower was relocated from Haywood County's Hatchie River wildlife area. The canoe was used by author William Least Heat-Moon during the navigation of the United States inland waterways and documented in his book, River-Horse: Across America by Boat (2001).
What does the town think about The Mindfield?
Most people seem to enjoy it. I have two comment boxes near the structure and I get many positive notes from local people as well as visitors from all over the U.S. and a few from other countries. There has, at times, been local opposition to my work, but even that can be beneficial on both the individual and community level.
The current and past city and county mayors, Joe Matherne, Webb Banks, and Franklin Smith, have also been very supportive of me personally and I appreciate that. I hope that most people, if they take the time to look beneath the obvious, will tolerate and understand my attempt at conversation.
What will happen to The Mindfield when you are no longer able to care
Upon my death, The Mindfield, as well as my other work, will become the property of the Kohler Foundation. They will preserve and care for the property so that any who wish may continue to enjoy it during the years to come.
What about the colorful stuff near the street?
I did most of that in my spare time one winter and it isn't meant to last as I hope The Mindfield itself will. Most of the pieces are found items from my car wash that others have discarded. There are some personal guidelines there for living my life as well. I think the legal right to freedom of such expression is a very important part of any life, and much of this work is meant to underscore that daily application, as well as personally, be a chance not to miss at a kind of chat.
Why do you name and decorate your trucks, your motorcycles, and your bicycle?
I want these things, and my surroundings in general, to talk back to me as much as possible. It's also a tool I use as part of the process of my writing. These objects sort of take on their own history and personality. Elizabeth, my truck, has gone through various themes and so have the motorcycles. The answer is rather simple - it's another something I like to do, and of course, it talks back to me.
Do you get tired of discussing and explaining your work?
I enjoy talking to people who have a sincere desire to understand what I do. I really didn't make it to talk with others about it. It's a conversation I have with myself, which because of its public location sometimes is taken as more than just self-talk. If people want to participate in their own way, that's fine with me and it is sometimes inspiring, but that's their work, not mine.
How can people find out more about you and The Mindfield?
TRY to read my book, The Mindfield Years, vol.1; The Sycamore Trees, Billy Pyrene's Biography of Ned. It talks about how someone who would later work on The Mindfield came to be and my early life. It's a difficult read I know, and most people have understandably given up on it, but the best story I can tell in words is there if one really wants to know it. I give away free copies in the comment boxes to anyone who visits The Mindfield. People can also purchase copies by contacting me via email or by writing to me at:
1 Mindfield Alley
Brownsville, TN 38012
What do you enjoy doing with any free time you have?
I like to take trips on my motorcycle and I enjoy reading when I can. I particularly like Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Jack London, and William Least Heat-Moon, but I read slowly and not a wide variety of authors. Most of my life is connected with my work in one way or another.
Comments and questions may be sent to: