WEST 2016 preview: visitors are welcome to touch this artwork  

By Jared Davidson – 

For Tracy Armstrong, it all begins with texture. Part sculptor, part painter, she uses personalized techniques to create depth and structure. Her works are tangible. They invite exploration, even touch. Combining found objects, landscapes and natural materials, Tracy creates pieces that are earthy and full of feeling. And, in a local art scene that is becoming ever more competitive, her work is strikingly unique.

“Nature does something for me and my soul,” says WEST artist, Tracy Armstrong. “It calms me. It makes me happy.”
“Nature does something for me and my soul,” says WEST artist, Tracy Armstrong. “It calms me. It makes me happy.”

Though she’s been creating art for a public audience for five years, this year will be Tracy’s first time on the West End Studio Tour. Though she resides outside of Kitchissippi, she has been granted visiting artist status, and for the space of two weekends she will have her art on display at 18 Hampton Ave., her sister’s home.

It is settings like this in which Tracy’s art is best experienced. Visitors will have a chance to feel the art, and participate with it, something Tracy sees as central to her work’s purpose. Her inspiration has always been the natural world, but her more recent pieces seek to harness that sense of natural wonder.

“Nature does something for me and my soul,” says Tracy. “It calms me. It makes me happy.”

She wants viewers to become absorbed in her work in much the same way one might enjoy a breathtaking sunset. Her pieces, she explains, are meant to be meditative, with no single focal point, but rather a flow of texture and colour. She carefully plans her works in advance, working always with the end in mind. The result is a cohesive whole that seems naturally created. She is recreating the complexity and unity of nature.

“Whenever I’m at a show, I can always tell the people that are getting it, because they come in a little closer,” she says. “They’re drawn in.”

Her art celebrates the unique experience of the viewer. It is meant to be seen from different angles, in different lights, and in different emotional contexts. She wants the viewer to bring themselves to the art.

Interestingly, given the participatory nature of her work, Tracy spent much of her art career creating art for family and friends—pursuing it as a hobby. But as she started to get positive reactions, and as her children matured, she decided to make art a focus. Since then, she has become rather prolific. And though her output has increased, she still creates art that is highly personal, something she finds nerve wracking even now.

“It takes a kind of bravery,” she says. “Courage is the most important virtue, and whether I’m doing a show or struggling with a painting, I have to draw on that.”

Tracy’s work is dynamic. Bored with one technique, she continues to adapt her style. Currently, her works fit into two broader categories: rust and nature. Each category explores a texture, be it the decay of metal or the movement of light across a landscape.

“I’m not an artist who can do just one thing,” she says. “It’s not how my brain works.”

The West End Studio Tour takes place September 17 & 18 and 24 & 25. For more information, as well as addresses of artists’ studios, see westendstudiotour.ca.

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