Myth and Mystery
Every painting begins in my mind with a word, a string of words, or
a clear image that appears like a dream.
~ Tracey Clarke
Painter Tracey Clarke will be exhibiting soon in "Myth and Mystery", opening February 4 at Caton Merchant Family Art Gallery at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory, Manassas, Virginia. (That's Tracey's "The Guide" at the bottom of the card for the show.) The exhibit, running through March 18 and also featuring artists Karen Eide and Kathleen Kendall, includes oils, encaustics, and mixed-media works.
Tracey, whom I first met at her recent solo show at the Athenaeum, in Alexandria, Virginia, is a superb painter. She has been painting full-time for about 10 years. Her subjects are animals — not surprising, given that she worked a decade as a veterinary technician. In her cohesive body of oils, she mines her love and knowledge of animals and her sensibility of animals' mythic qualities to create work that is imaginative, dramatic, as likely dark as joyful, pushing the surreal while preserving the recognizable. The longer you look at them, the more, it seems, the paintings take on narratives of their own, separate and apart from whatever the artist might have suggested originally and influenced by your own narrative as viewer.
I find Tracey's work to be deeply intuitive. Indeed, when painting or in the presence of animals, Tracey writes on her Website, "[t]here is a kind of communion that takes place between me and God."
I asked Tracey a question or two and she graciously provided the following responses to accompany this announcement of the Caton Merchant show.
Maureen Doallas: Tracey, you quote Edgar Degas's statement that "[a]rt is not a matter of what you see, but what you can make others see." That word "make" interests me. When you paint, what is it that you endeavor to "make" others see?
Tracey Clarke: Those words of Degas have always been intriguing to me, though his intent may be different from mine. All art is an illusion, and the artist conveys what she sees, which may be wholly different from what someone else might see. We each tend to pick up something unique in the art we view, hear, or read. In applying this statement to my work, I really am speaking of the use of the surreal and narrative elements to "uncover" or reveal something that might not be immediately apparent to the viewer, yet use them in a way that leaves room for the viewer to add [his or her] own discoveries. I hope to "make" them see my message and also to make them see their own.
MD: You write in your artist statement that you use your imagination as a catalyst for "new mythology". What does that "new mythology" comprise?
TC: The New Mythology is a body of paintings in a story based in a particular time and place over the expanse of a certain history. The myth is built around relationships between animals, using anthropomorphism. Generally, the themes center around the ideas of companionship, union, and service in times of difficulty as well as special "gifts" of the subjects bestowed by God for creation. Some of the narratives that accompany the paintings are bits and pieces, snips of time in this world, and others, like the "War of Birds", are ongoing and have a historical record in the Corvidae Legends.
My intention is to do an in-depth interview with Tracey as soon as our schedules permit. In the meantime, I hope her answers here intrigue you enough to attend the exhibit during its run or, if you are not in the area, to visit Tracey's Website or her blog and follow her on Twitter. She is also on FaceBook.
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