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Tracy Mahler



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Throughout my life I always felt a pull towards the arts. I was skilled at academics; particularly mathematics. Family and society taught me I would not- could not- support myself as an artist. “It’s a waste, make it a hobby, not a career.” I felt a constant internal push and pull in two directions. My mom and I shared a love of math and art. I have crystal clear memories of her prepping dinner while I did art at the table. She was probably juggling boiling water and occupying a four year old. What started with play-doh color theory eventually transformed to learning painting and mixing flesh tones- while mom chopped, stirred and sautéed. My educational path is reflective of my pull towards art. I started college as an engineering major and took art as my elective. I did better in painting 101 than physics 101. I was warned that these were “advanced classes” for art majors. I succeeded beyond the art majors. I would fall asleep at my chemistry textbook and stay up all night invigorated by my painting homework.

The pull was real. I switched my major to biology. My lab notebook drawings were my passion. What I viewed under a microscope were pieces of art ready to be framed. My graphs and charts were precise and colored to perfection. The teaching assistant told me I should look into “scientific illustration.” What’s that? Wait I could combine the arts and science? I was pushed again that art wasn’t the “way to go.” Illustration paid poorly and was being replaced by computers… Then I was turned on to the idea of microscopic photography. Eventually, after 5 majors and 5 colleges I received my BS in fine art photography from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Photography was practical, employable and artistic. Photography surprisingly helped my paintings more than I could have ever imagined. The study of composition and lighting is intense. I realize now, all of my paintings are of the same thing: LIGHT. The subject doesn’t matter, everything is just color and shape. What I am drawn to is composition and light. Perhaps my love for math explains my approach to art. I see light, color and shape no matter the subject. Although my surgical approach to a painting is unemotional, my feelings manage to come through like verdant weeds through cracked pavement.

Nothing brings me greater joy than someone telling me what they see or feel from my paintings. It’s important for me to constantly learn in creating my artwork, while still giving myself the creative license necessary to form a compelling piece. For all of my paintings I aim to balance realism and looseness, while accurately capturing the way light wraps around the subjects. Focusing on strong compositions, I allow the paints to do the work and use explosive colors to give the piece that feeling of ultra-reality.