Artists Acres

Recollections and Reflections
Although I think of myself as a “Southerner,” I was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1901.  My family always started for Florida at the first cold wind.  We would work our way from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach, then west to Tampa and Boca Grande.  I graduated from high school in Tampa in 1920 and attended Florida College for Women in Tallahassee, the next year.  My family moved to Winter Park and I attended Rollins College, graduating in 1929 with a major in Art.

At Rollins I met my wonderful husband, Harry H Tracy, and we married in 1931 during the Great Depression.  We moved to Venice where he managed the Venice Myakka, a family –owned hotel.  Later we bought an inn called Tall Timbers in Sanburton, New Hampshire, which became an art colony.  This is where I wrote my first book Painting Principles and Practices.
During the winters in New Hampshire, I decided to study all the things I had missed in my strange education.  I wanted to find natural laws as I felt that each painting should be a little universe and obey these laws.  I studied Einstein’s Universe by Eddington.  I have found that thoughts and words are forces that bring what you think or say into being.  We all make our own world with our thoughts and words.  I have proven this over and over again with unbelievable results.  When asking always give thanks to the Creator for the things you want, as thought the things have already happened.

To Create, a painter needs to raise his or her vibrations and connect with the Creator.  Music helps or reading poetry, or reading those wonderful Psalms that speak of waves clapping their hands and trees singing for joy!  Often when I am really swinging on a big canvas, I can almost hear a few jolly painters from the past arguing about the best ne3xt step.  Once when thinking about Martin Luther hanging those 95 theses on the cathedral door, I thought about the priest, robed magnificently, standing in the doorway protesting.  Later I found that I had painted Martin Luther as a skinny little man with a long, thin neck standing in front of the door.  That painting is now hanging in the collection of the Fire Arts Society of Sarasota in the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Among my most important works are a series of 40 watercolors titled Creations, a series of Old Testament themes in oil, and a series that has become known as the miracle series because of inexplicable things that have happened while it was being painted.  I really learned to paint by doing it.  I would paint a particular type of tree-a palm tree or a pine tree or an oak tree- until I knew the subject.  And I would do this with clouds.

I pained reflections until I could really make water wet.  I spent many hours along the Myakka River painting the huge water oaks.  In Englewood there were docks with many birds, boats and fishing nets which I painted.  I knew the Florida jungle and my landscapes won many prizes and were included in museum circuit shows.  

I sent a collection of landscapes to the New Your World’s Fair in 1939 and won a Gold Medal for the best oil collection.  As a result I was invited to have a show at a gallery in New York City.  From that time I had shows in different New York galleries every two or three years.  I showed extensively in Florida nda the Gulf coast Group which later became the Florida Artists’ Group.

I remember many good reviews, including those of New Your newspaper critics.  The nicest day I remember was when I opened the New York Times and saw a paragraph on “the new modern painter Bartlett Tracy.”  At the time I always showed as a man.  And I remember a painting being hung in the new Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum in the 1950’s or 1960’s.  

The Person from whom I learned most was my teacher in New York, Hans Hofmann.  Later I attended a workshop by Boris Margo who was my friend and critic for a number of years.  I “jumped over the fence” into abstract art after Tall Timbers was destroyed by fire, along with all of my paintings.  

In the 1940’s I was simulated by revolutionary discoveries in physics and I began striving to break basic forms into pure energy.  This resulted in my Energy in Space series.  The Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution acquired three of my painting in its early years.  In 1994 the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a painting from this series, titled Textural Space, for their permanent collections.  
When we left the New Hampshire mountain tops for the Virginia coal country, I went “under-ground” with a series of large collages based on the earth’s strata.  One of my fossil prints is now in the permanent collection of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.
When I was learning to paint, I sold all my work.  But when I became a good painter, my sales became fewer. It was when I stopped painting “appearances” and attempted to express inner rhythms in relationship to the whole that my work was not so well understood by the general public but was appreciated by critics.  I have attempted for many rears to make each painting a small universe, using shapes, spaces, color and line to get this effect on canvas.

At times I choose the hardness of rocks or mountains to express strength.  Other times I want to lose all the edges in a painting to let it flow and express emotion with color.  One needs to feel the essence of the subject, not just the surface and to choose the lines and forms and colors that work.  I like to use strong blues and browns and lots of lovely yellow.  As I look back over my years of painting, I remember using yellow as a predominate color for many years.  Now I go for blues.

My art career which began with Florida landscapes has come full circle, but in a style changed and enriched by my wide-ranging experiments and experiences.  When I returned to Englewood I again turned to conveying the essence of the Florida landscape, the swamps and trees, birds, orange groves and cattle ranches.  This work was not primarily representational as I broke the canvas into sections to get movement in space and time.

An artist puts himself or herself into every brush stroke.  Emotion has to be captured by painting if the painting is to be a good one.  I’ll end by saying that a painter has to paint.  When a day goes by that I have not painted, it is a lost day and I feel guilty about it.  I have to paint as I have to breathe to keep alive.

Lois Bartlett Tracy, Englewood, 1998
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