WL man makes a monster

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 30, 2014
“The brain you stole, Fritz. Think of it, the brain of a dead man waiting to live again in a body I made with my own hands!" -Frankenstein (movie), 1931

Chris McMahon uses malicious monsters in scenic settings to revive art, a project that caught the eye of grammy award winning rock band, Weezer.

The West Liberty resident's painting "Mountain Monster" will be featured on the group's upcoming tenth studio album "Everything Will Be Alright in the End," to be released in September.

His success is a product of the internet age, where fame and fortune can be found by a simple post to a popular website.

"Its really surreal, when you're posting stuff on the internet it doesn't really register that thousands and thousands of people are actual looking at that," said McMahon.

However, Weezer's lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo was looking. Years after “Mountain Monster” was put online he came across it. He liked what he saw.

Weezer, formed in 1992, is an alternative rock band with several well known singles, including the 2005 hit "Beverly Hills." Its music and members have gone through several incarnations since it's beginning.

McMahon's “Mountain Monster,” on the other hand, is an acrylic painting of a giant, brown, fuzzy beast roaming through the mountains, its eyes and mouth are wide open in a creepy and aware fashion. It's well done too, McMahon has a lot of talent.

And, given Weezer's tendency to pick odd and uncanny album covers, “Mountain Monster” was a match made in heaven.

However, it went through several aesthetic and digital changes before Weezer came along. It's part of a series of similar composition's by McMahon in which he found older, already finished, scenic paintings and added his own touch.

"When I started doing it, the idea was to find essentially discarded paintings and whatnot, things that look like they need something extra. I would then paint monsters into them," he said.

Basically, McMahon added life to pieces that had lived their lives, now forgotten and unused. In that way he's given them a second chance to see the world.

"For the “Mountain Monster” a lot of the background and stuff was already there, and I just basically blocked out a section and incorporated the monster," he said.

Afterwards, he decided to put his paintings online on Reddit, a popular forum driven website. He wasn't really trying to find fame, he was just looking for something to do.

"I had some down time during the summer, I was bored. The first thing I posted was my dog, or something like that, then I was like, 'I might as well post this.' Suddenly, I got calls later on that day telling me thousands of people upvoted my thing."

Essentially, Reddit is "the front page of the internet." The most popular and trending stories, ideas, photos and everything else find themselves on its front page through a voting process.

Popular posts go up while unpopular ones fade away to the back. McMahon had given his creation the final lightning strike of life. It was now roaming free on Reddit and the rest of the internet.

But, it wasn't until three years later when Weezer came onto the scene. McMahon and fellow artist Thyrza Segal had been posting other pieces of art online. He hadn't forgotten about it, but life was moving on.

"I was getting a haircut at the time and I got a text, it was like 'Oh by the way, Weezer is trying to get ahold of you," he said. "I was like…what?"

Apparently, Weezer's manager had contacted Thyrza Segal. Since McMahon's personal info wasn't posted, he had to talk to her first, since the two work together online.

“Mountain Monster” had found life once again, but this time it wasn't by McMahon's doing. In fact, the band's digital artists made changes of their own before the final album cover was completed.

Like a living monster, the shape of “Mountain Monster” is formless, fitting whatever medium that's needed. McMahon believes this is why his painting originally caught on, and why it continues to be popular.

"That nature of it caught people's attention," said McMahon. "The idea, which I call involuntary collaboration, where I was essentially working with someone else."

Now he's the subject of Weezer's own involuntary collaboration. Of course, he's getting the credit for the piece. It also helps that he's a fan of the group.

"I've been a fan since the college days, actually even before the college days," he said. "They've always been a staple of the stuff we listen to for my friends and me."

Now McMahon gets to sit back and watch his monster grow. His painting continually finds itself on the front page of Reddit, while Weezer inadvertently promotes the image with its album.

"Last week Weezer appeared on the “Tonight Show.” Jimmy Kimmel was holding up the album cover with my art cover… it was like a good minute to a minute and a half of him holding it up."

“Everything Will Be Alright in the End” is available for pre download right now, along with its cover image. McMahon has yet to see a physical copy of the album with his image on the front.

However, his success is slowly changing from surreal to reality.

"But the “Tonight Show,” that was like 'Yes, other people are out there with my paintings, it's actually happening," he added.

Chris McMahon's work can be found on cwmcmahon.com. However, his work can also be found on Imgur, Reddit and Deviantart, where his monsters continue to roam and find a life of their own.
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