Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, “When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
When there is little quiet time to think, when blockbuster movies are intensely gaudy, when media and information move at a rapid pace and we are reminded of the violence we inflict on one another through weapons of war, is it at all possible to enjoy a bike ride through the neighborhood? Troubles of the world aside, is it at all possible to enjoy a bike ride in any densely populated area in Rhode Island?
These are the questions R.A. McElroy sought to pose and answer with our bicycle issue’s cover art. McElroy places two people on a bike amidst some of the heavier themes of the day. Namely, the atomic bomb – prompted by the film Oppenheimer, and by Rhode Island’s status as the only state in the nation that continues to celebrate Victory Day.
In his piece Brace for Impact, which is a mixed-media collage, McElroy puts a man and a woman on a tandem bicycle. The woman has bright pink hair and both wear sunglasses, this couple is an homage to the Barbie film, Oppenheimer’s blockbuster counterpart. The couple is all smiles, a jarring juxtaposition against the backdrop of a mushroom cloud. Bright orange and red flames dissipate into a black, starless sky, and in the distance, the Providence skyline remains untouched – for now.
“The purpose of the cover is to grab attention,” McElroy says. “It’s a colorful image, but it feels apocalyptic. It isn’t a flat-out warning, but a reminder of what has happened, and what could happen.”
You may wonder if the bicyclists on the cover are looking at the explosion or are completely ignorant of it, to which McElroy says, “I think that’s something that can be up to each person’s interpretation, but they certainly aren’t looking forward.”
McElroy has lived in Rhode Island for almost thirty years and, as a cyclist, is pleased to see moves to make PVD more bike-friendly; however, as any PVD-area cyclist knows: one must always look straight ahead for fear of riding into a heavy, orange traffic cone, or down a post-apocalyptic pothole. McElroy emphasizes the presence they have on his bike rides by placing the sunglassed pair on a sea of traffic cones, almost levitating the duo above them. “Whenever I ride my bike, I know I am going to have to dodge those things.”
McElroy has worked as an artist for most of his life and is a collage enthusiast. He finds that collage captures, better than any other medium, the feeling of “everything happening all at once,” the precise feeling he sought to capture and portray in Brace for Impact.
You can see McElroy’s work regularly in the comics section of Motif under “Just Visiting.”