We had the good fortune of connecting with Tracy Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tracy, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
The quote that has always stuck with me is a quote by Henry Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” My college professor Irv Taran actually said this quote during a painting class in the early 2000s. For some reason, it struck me deeply and I still think of it often. It reminds me that we all have our own unique vision and way of seeing the world and that art is not about perfection but the path of self-discovery and voice. Irv also uses to always say, “nothing is precious” which is so true and allows you permission to screw up and learn from your mistakes. Making bad art is part of the process and sometimes you just have to walk away from a piece and start over.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am a mixed media artist who works in paint, collage and video. Lately, I have been focusing primarily on painting with acrylic paints on canvas and clothing. A lot of my work explores feminist issues along with bringing attention to the underrepresentation of women throughout art history. Since the pandemic began, I have seen my work transition more into portraiture and the creation of strange beings and characters. It feels good to just let my work unfold naturally without thinking too hard about it. I also like how my newest paintings are gradually becoming looser.
Recently I had the opportunity to do a month-long painting residency in Bisbee with “Spiritual Mango” at the Rooming House. It was such a perfect escape from the state of the world. I got to surround myself with a lot of positive energy, and it was just beautiful. The Rooming House is a small Air B&B in Bisbee that was recently temporarily transformed into an artist residency by Tiffany Alexander.
Tiffany is an incredible advocate for helping creatives on their paths, and she was so kind and generous to open her doors to me. We both grew up in the Detroit area and met at an art market in Tucson last fall and just clicked. We have become good friends, and I’m even considering moving to Bisbee at some point, I love the creative energy and pace there and my partner has more of a rural/country spirit, so we think the quirky rural art town might be a good fit for us but I would miss Tucson and we are not 100 percent sold on moving anytime soon. Professionally, I am at a place where I am starting to put my art and myself first.
Covid has helped give me perspective about how I want to spend my life more outside of the classroom and focused on building my art business. I started to see my online sales increase during the quarantine, and I was invited to collaborate with an online gallery in Paris called Singulart and with an awesome online print business called “Ms. Prints and MasterPieces” promoting high-end prints and the work of over 40 female artists from around the globe. I was also recently nominated for the Southern Arizona Buffalo Exchange Award. All of these recent opportunities have been exciting, and I have deep gratitude for them.
How did I get to where I am today? Hard work and sacrifice. It truly comes down to committing to yourself, your vision, and busting your butt to get the work done. I’m still not where I envision myself and my work to be, and I know I have a lot of work to do especially when it comes to learning about the business side of art. I see myself as having the art-making side of things down but as being in the building phase of creating my business and getting my work out there more. With this in mind, I recently enrolled myself in a couple of online courses. Essentially, both classes are about being a self-starter and not waiting around for your career to happen to you. The first class is about working with galleries and navigating the art world, and the second is about becoming an “artrepreneur”.
Currently, I am enrolled in Bridget Mayers Online Course, Art MBA, and I’m a member of the Art Queens society with Ekaterina Popova of Create Magazine. Both of these groups are so crucial to my development of taking my art seriously as a business and holding myself accountable in pushing my work to the next level.
Along this path, I am learning that getting what you want from life and art won’t magically happen, not even for the most talented artists. You have to be clear and intentional about your goals and vision and find the resources and people you need to help you get there. I’ve also learned that a positive attitude, being able to let go of mistakes, while not taking yourself too seriously, is key. Supporting fellow artists and finding your community, even if it is an online community of like-minded individuals with similar goals, is super helpful on this journey.
As far as advice goes I’d say stay as far away from negative people as possible, do not listen to the haters, and keep your inner critic and ego in check. Recently, I had someone I would say is respected in the local art community straight up tell me that he couldn’t have imagined in a million years that I would be successful with selling my art. Thankfully, I have thick enough skin and practice letting go of other people’s unsolicited opinions, projections, and lack of awareness. It was a reminder that you just have to keep your head up and stay on your path; you will get there if your heart and mind are in the right place, just keep showing up.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite thing about Tucson is the influence of Mexican culture on it. I would say (pre/post-Covid) visit the city during the All Souls Procession. I think November is one of the nicest times to visit Tucson. I’d say visit all of our national parks and just get out into nature. The Desert Museum is always a cool place for visitors to check out along with the botanical gardens and a trip to the top of Mt. Lemon for the first time is also incredible. As far as eating and drinking go, I’m kind of a low key gal so I love places I can walk to from my downtown houses such as Time Market, Tap and Bottle, and the Royal. Bocca is a great place for tacos I also love Tumeric and Zeman’s. Also, Substance has the best vegan burger I’ve ever tasted. If you have time to take a day trip make sure to drive through Tombstone and stop at Pocos in Bisbee for some of the most delicious vegan meals ever!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d give a shout out to all the strong women that have influenced my life, including my college professor, d’Anne de Simon, for being super encouraging and enthusiastic about my work during undergrad; Kathy Keler, for being an inspiring community leader, an amazing artist, friend and mentor; and Marden Petrie for guiding me on a healing path and helping me to see my worth. I’m influenced by artists such as “The Guerilla Girls on Tour”, Judy Chicago, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Barbara Kruger, May Wilson, Alice Kneel, and more. I’ve been heavily inspired by the visionary work of bell hooks, Gloria Steinem. and Jean Kilbourn.
Other: Singulart: https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/tracy-brown-17355?previewToken=0Ch3Qs_Gk_luFrWlQQwoFeXZZeeP2gePJGvErtXTAyI%3D.eyJpZCI6MTczNTV9 Miss Prints and Master Pieces :https://www.missprintsandmasterpieces.com/search-results/q-Tracy%2520Brown/qc-products Vimeo https://vimeo.com/user34575738