Friday, September 26, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Tracy MacEwan

Tracy MacEwan, a local artist with an interest in photography, painting, performance, instillation, and collage, is showing his most current work of oil and wax on canvas within The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in The Alphabet Effect through the month of September. Gallery patrons have had the opportunity to become familiar with his work and final product, but what about the development of his pieces? How does he begin an artwork and what are his thoughts throughout the process?

“You begin with the possibilities of the materials,” Robert Rauschenberg said, a renowned multi-media pop artist, and one of MacEwan’s inspirations. MacEwan works instinctively, allowing his subconscious and materials to become active participants in creating his work. “My struggle is to simply let go of the limitations I place on myself and trust my intuitive response,” he stated.

Tracy MacEwan is an artist who enjoys experimenting and playing. He refers often to the abstract expressionists of the 1950’s, particularly those from the bay area. The works from this time have pushed MacEwan into letting go of boundaries within the medium, and to have confidence in the power of the subliminal mind in combination with conscious thought. “It becomes a performance at the easel,” he said.

MacEwan’s most current projects evolve through scraping and revealing layers. His panels and canvases, gripped with oil and wax, allow a history to develop. Each piece has several layers, varying in transparency and bold color. He prepares his surfaces often with acrylic and marble dust, giving them a rustic and rough foundation. MacEwan provides a sense of archeology within his paintings as he leaves remnants of material, allowing for an examination, or study, by the viewer. His pieces reveal stories that must be deciphered though piecing together the elements that he has provided.

Tracy MacEwan will continue to expand his work as he creates his own visual language. “Optimistically, I want my art to encourage an open-minded response,” he stated. “And while I hope it possible to inspire deeper though and contemplation, I’m also a big fan of being playful.” His work raises questions, creates open dialogue, and provides a new look into the history of the self, and of the medium.

by MiKayla Gattuccio

Tracy MacEwan

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mixed Media: Found and Recycled Art

With more and more focus on how people can reduce their negative global impact, artists too are influencing ideas about conservation and the reuse of materials. The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery represents several artists who work with these ideas as they provide their audiences with new ways of thinking about fine art. Such artists as Jackie Hoyt, Ben and Kate Gatski of Gatski Metals, and Tripp Gregson all represent this modern global drive toward supporting a more successful future. Whether or not an artist working with recycled materials sets a goal for environmental awareness, that artist pushes their audience’s mindset on what art means, and what art can do.

The tradition of recycling became common practice as early as 400 BCE. Over one-thousand years later, American pioneers began exploring new ways of reusing such materials and actively incorporated them into art practices. In the early nineteenth century, materials were being salvaged for creating decorative quilts, rag rugs, and various sculptural pieces. These influences then lead to such works as Fountain by Marcel Duchamp in 1917, and Bull’s Head by Pablo Picasso in 1943. The tradition continues to thrive and artists, like the ones represented through the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, are making their marks locally and nationally to promote change and critical thinking.

One such artist, Jackie Hoyt, explores time, space, and narrative through her use of found and recycled materials in her mixed media assemblages. After graduating from Portland State University in 1984, with a degree in graphic design, she began creating window displays for a local business. This job, which she said she accidentally fell into, helped to direct her art into what it is today. "If you can imagine it, you can build it," she stated.

Working on a small budget with this job, Hoyt had to use her creativity to stretch the dollar and evolve something that may seem small into something amazing. During this time, she frequented thrift stores and garage sales. She began her own collection of various board games, dice, dominos and other materials, not knowing that they would later launch her art profession.

In 2000, Hoyt began her assemblages. The sheer volume of the materials may seem overwhelming to some, but when the process begins, it happens very naturally and without uncertainty for her. Some of her finalized pieces may take up to two years to complete due to the collection process, being that her materials are rather specific and based out of a certain time period. Hoyt’s work is one of a kind, with pieces never being able to be duplicated. She may create works that fall under a similar theme, but in each piece she deliberately uses different elements to provide her audience with a unique look into our culture’s past.

When talking about found object and recycled art, questions of environmental and conservational practices come up. Hoyt finds value out of materials that may be discarded and overlooked. They are materials that once had a significant impact on a person’s life, and are now seen, by some, as useless. She looks for pieces that may be missing wheels or certain parts. She finds objects that may be sold for hundreds of dollars in mint condition, but are now deemed as rubbish. She brings a new life into these items. She refreshes the viewer’s idea about what is important and what should be appreciated, and she always upholds ideas about salvaging and reusing.

The Work of Jackie Hoyt

Along with Jackie Hoyt, Ben and Kate Gatski of Gatski Metals have established a unique art practice working with found materials. Specializing in metal work, with an important emphasis on honoring agriculture through art, the Gatski’s have combined their passion for farming with their love of art making. "We believe in the importance of the farming," Kate Gatski said. "We respect the people who farm. We believe in honoring the tradition of producing food, particularly food which is grown in a natural system. It is a tradition we all share, yet it is given little attention."

Kate received her degree in Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine. "In some ways sustainable agriculture is the ultimate meeting of ‘man and nature,’" Kate stated. With the combined hard work and creative minds of Kate and Ben, one can see that they impact not only the art community but they are also dealing with global issues, one of these being sustainable agricultural techniques. Another issue that the two focus on is organic dairy farming. Ben began this line of business at age nineteen when he bought a herd of dairy cows.

With their care for farming and sustainable practices, the two have found a distinctive balance between ecology and art. Their metal sculptures are expressive and have a strong sense of history. Their pieces begin by scouting their community and central Pennsylvania, visiting scrap yards, farms, machine shops, and machinery dealerships. They have worked with exterior parts from disabled hay mowers, tractors, combines, hay balers, and silage wagons. "Metal suits our personalities," Kate said, "it is very tough and very forgiving."

The Work of Ben and Kate Gatski

For all four of these artists represented at The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, it is clear that discovering joy through art is common practice. By using found objects and recycled materials, these artists have stretched their creativity and allowed their audiences to experience something old, as something new. They have pushed the boundaries in artistic mediums and given inspiration to others. With national and global concerns at hand, these artists bring to mind how one person can become a leader in influencing change and welcoming new ideas toward a more successful being.

by MiKayla Gattuccio

Saturday, September 6, 2008

About Mary Lou Zeek

My photo
We represent Northwest artists working in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, works on paper, ceramics, jewelry and mixed media. Our second gallery features exhibitions on a monthly basis, as well as selected group shows and special exhibitions. To arrange an appointment, please call 503-581-3229 or email; During our years of operating, we have successfully encouraged the broadening and blossoming of the Salem art scene. We are dedicated to serving our clients as well as our artists. The relationships that we cultivate with our clients and our artists have been and will continue to be long and rewarding. We encourage you to take the time to be acquainted with us and take the time to appreciate the art we enjoy so much.