- April 14, 2015
Jamie Tracy was entering his senior year at the Cleveland Institute of Art. At a time when most students are wrapping up coursework for their major and looking for post-graduate employment, Tracy was facing a creative conundrum.
For three years the medical illustration major had drawn numerous sketches for medical textbooks. However, though he had mastered drawing every detail of the human body, Tracy’s creative drive was dying.
“I went there because I had no idea what I wanted to do,” says Tracy. “I loved science. I loved drawing. But after three years, medical illustration just got boring for me and got stale very quickly. You draw something in front of you and it looks exactly like it. Kudos but, for me, that wasn’t difficult enough.”
Tracy needed a challenge. So he changed his major to the subject that was the focus of the hardest class he took: photography. He moved in 2003 to Florida to teach at the Ringling College of Art and Design, then taught for one year at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. One year later, he landed his current job as an associate professor of art and the program manager of studio art at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Next semester he’ll chair the art, design and humanities department.
Tracy, 38, is constantly on the lookout for challenges — for both himself and his art students. The next one is “MASHterpiece.”
“MASHterpiece” is a collaboration between 30 local artists, the Art Center Sarasota and area Goodwill stores. Entering its second year, the project revolves around area artists who choose works of art donated to Goodwill to transform them into original, new works.
“I think it’s kind of an inspiration,” says Lisa Berger, executive director of Art Center Sarasota. “It’s a challenge to not only make these objects a beautiful piece of art but give them a second life.”
The participating artists gathered March 31 in the community room of the Goodwill located on North Tamiami Trail.
Berger and Kelly Davis Strausbaugh, marketing and public relations coordinator for Goodwill Manasota, pulled the artists’ names out of a bag at random so everyone participating would have a fair chance at selecting a donated work. The diverse range of works included landscape, portraits, abstract paintings and even a framed jigsaw puzzle depicting penguins on the moon.
Some artists were inspired to purchase more objects and works of art from Goodwill that weren’t included in the lottery to incorporate into their projects. These cast-off pieces of art will be transformed and displayed at the Art Center for the exhibit running May 21 through June 26.
“The idea of collaborating, communication and being connected to something is really important to today’s artists. And I think that the most important thing is that we may lose track that art can be and should be fun.”
– Jamie Tracy, associate professor of art State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarastota
“MASHterpiece” highlights a key concept of Goodwill: the act of reusing and recycling.
“We’re always looking for new methods to get artwork back out into the community,” says Strausbaugh. “Our collection is a mix of everything you can imagine, and the cool thing about MASHterpiece is that we get to reach an audience that we don’t normally.”
In its inaugural year, the public art program/experiment highlighted pieces. Some were radical departures from the original work (Kasey Lindley took a portrait profile of a woman and painted a baby blue ski mask on her face and added colorful vertical lines to the background) and some just accentuated the painting’s original thought (Marcia Ente gave her silhouette male and female characters voice bubbles with a reference to Hamlet’s immortal speech).
Tracy also participated in the program last year. He viewed his piece as a true collaboration between himself and the former artist of the donated work — he made sure the original sketch of a woman still shined through. He photographed a female subject who looked similar to the original subject and placed the photo over the original drawing so it looked like the two women were side by side.
Tracy’s piece this year is an unfinished watercolor landscape of the hotel district of the village of Chester, just outside of Liverpool, England. He has numerous ideas he’s playing around with, including finishing the painting, inserting photos of himself (maybe dressed as Waldo from “Where’s Waldo”) in the crowd in the painting and possibly incorporating the college’s 3-D printer to add architectural pieces to the cityscape. Whatever method he chooses, Tracy wants it to be a learning experience for himself and for his students.
“I’m going to put every step of this process in the hallway outside of our classrooms so my students can see my progress,” says Tracy. “I’m going to have my students see my entire process so they can see how I problem-solve when faced with a challenge. I want them to see I’m not different from them, and I’m doing the same thing I ask them to do every week in my class.”
Tracy wants to emphasize the art of collaboration to his students.
“The idea of collaborating, communication and being connected to something is really important to today’s artists,” says Tracy. “And I think that the most important thing is that we may lose track that art can be and should be fun. For me, it’s a lot of fun to do this work. It’s not what I normally do. It’s always good to get out of a routine and out of your rut.”
Comic Book Creativity
The dominant influence on Jamie Tracy’s career in the visual arts are the colorful and epic characters and stories that came to life in the comic books of his childhood.
“I started reading very early,” says Tracy. “I was 4 ½ when I could read, and someone told my mom to get me a comic book. That’s where the obsession started.”
That first comic book was “The Incredible Hulk.” Ever since, Tracy has been either drawing, painting or photographing things. His office at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota is crowded with artwork, books and collectibles of his favorite comic book heroes and characters.
“In my drawing class I show my students the masters but also show contemporary artists like comic book artists,” he says. “We get a lot of students who want to draw anime, comics or video game design, and you have to know where it all starts. You’ve got to follow the progression.”