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Lois Bartlett Tracy

women-pants-xsmLois Bartlett Tracy was born was born on December 9, 1901 and died on April 8, 2008 at the age of 106. Hers is an artist's legacy.  Her work hangs in some of the worlds finest art museums.  She left the world a more colorful, richer place.  Rather than tell you her story, we thought that she could do a better job.  This section of the site introduces you to the woman who was called a visionary by many... we called her "Granny".

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"Turning Earth" by Lois Bartlett Tracy

I was born in Jackson, Michigan on December 9, 1901.  By age three my favorite activity was picking up gravel and stones and watching their colors and shapes when placed in jars of water.  I spent hours admiring how beautiful they looked.  Even now I love rocks.  They talk to me.  Trees have always talked to me too.  I believe my paintings came into being from my feeling one with nature.

Because Mother’s health was poor,  we could not spend winters in the North.    When I was young, we often traveled to Florida by train with a change in Chicago.   I remember when I was about six or seven, jumping off the train and running towards the Chicago Museum.  There was one particular painting on the first floor to the right that was painted with very thick layers of paint.  I fell in love with that thick texture.  It left me with a glow of satisfaction.  I decided right then and there I was going to be a painter.

For the most part, we children were taught at home but we learned History by traveling to Civil War battlefields where my father paid old men to tell local stories.  We learned Geography by learning the names of rivers and cities as we explored them.  We had an art teacher once when I was about six, but there was no color.  The only material we had was sepia, and that did not inspire me.

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"Spheres" by Lois Bartlett Tracy

College in the 1920's

I didn’t have another art teacher until I was a freshman at Florida State College for Women in 1920- ‘21.  Since the College was for women only, all subjects were simply branches of Home Economics.  Painting was not taught.   We were not allowed to speak to any male, not even the father of a roommate.  They would line us up to go to the picture show and count us off as we came out.  I often felt like I was in prison.  I rebelled against these attitudes towards the education of women by cutting my long wavy golden  hair to a short bob.  I left and entered Michigan State College soon after women were first admitted there.  

At Michigan, my painting teacher just let me go ahead on my own.  I started using oil paints and would paint everything I saw.  We were both startled by my work.  To the amazement of us both, he soon informed me that I was painting just the way those wild men in Paris (Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc.) were painting.

Selling Art in the Early Days

By the time the Depression came along, I was married and living in Winter Park, Florida, attending Rollins College.  To help with our support, I sold pictures of palm trees,  five dollars a tree.  If there were three trees in the painting, it was fifteen dollars.  Then I painted the buildings on Rollins campus for my 1929 yearbook.

In the 30’s, in Venice, Florida, certain scenes would just cry out to be painted.  When a field of  cabbages asked  me to paint it,  I realized that cabbage leaves are just as beautiful as a field of flowers.  Mostly, I painted the Florida jungles.  In the morning I used  to ride out to a Florida ranch on a cow pony (a rather small, tough, horse used to drive the cattle - Florida used to have the second largest number  of cattle of all the States).  The cowboys would leave me in a hammock  and continue on to their day’s work.  I would paint there all day until they would pick me up on their way back in the afternoon.  I would usually have enough done on two 30x 36 or  36x 40 canvases that I could finish them up at home.

 
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