Born 1943 in Douglas, Arizona, died 2010 in Knoxville, Tennessee
In the fall 1980, the I-80 series at the Joslyn Art Museum featured Michael Brakke, a Yale University trained Professor of Painting & Drawing at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A recurring image, the silhouette of a water tower photographed in Ranchester, Wyoming, united the six large-scale diptychs exhibited. Depicting the "most common Midwest phenomenon, the water tower, with the most populist medium, photography" to mine "traditional metaphors of earth, heaven, and water," Brakke simultaneously questioned the nature of reality through his process by projecting the original photograph of the water tower onto a wall and then photographing himself with such props as a stool. Curator Holliday T. Day explained, "Brakke relates the tower to himself so that his physical relationship to the tower in the work becomes metaphorically important. Nothing is straightforward or still, but a constant flip-flop of meaning occurs both literally and metaphysically. What is outside, like the tower, becomes inside, in the studio. What is illusion, like the photograph, becomes actual, like paint. What is mundane becomes profound." During his residency, December 11-13, 1980, the artist proofed a print based on the diptych "Always Be Tough", which was printed by Gary Day and Thomas Majeski with students Bill Zuelke and Dan Devening.

Always Be Tough
1981; color lithograph on Waxed Rives BFK; sheet: 23 x 35 (58.42 x 88.9); edition of 15