creativity, culture, community
Atlanta, GA — When the Fine Arts Workshop Group Exhibition opens on Friday, February 21 at the prestigious Bill Lowe Gallery in Midtown Atlanta, visitors will discover the work of one of Atlanta’s hottest new visual artists, Tracy Murrell.
A minimalist painter inspired by vintage iconic photographs, Murrell reduces her subjects to their essential elements, eliminating everything until it’s stripped to raw imagery, exposing their most compelling details. Her latest work features female forms reminiscent of sophisticated pin-ups. But for Murrell they are much more. Inspired by the stunning images of pioneering artist Jackie Ormes (1911 – 1985), the first African-American woman cartoonist, Murrell explores racial and gender stereotypes. She reimages the original cartoons, sometimes morphing her own likeness with Ormes’ original groundbreaking female African-American archetype, creating an ‘avatar’ for her struggle for her own identity as an artist and a woman. Painted in high key color, reminiscent of Pop and Post Pop Masters such as Lichtenstein, Katz and Hume, Murrell’s work prompts the viewer to question their own beliefs about race and gender, as well as what is high and low art. Her bright, bold, provocative works are already causing a stir with private collectors, and she is poised to bring her art to the general public.
On a recent weekend, while busily working on several large canvases in her studio at the King Plow Arts Center, Murrell is percolating with ideas while she talks about her work.
“I always drew from the time I could hold a crayon,” Murrell explains. “My dad was in the Air Force so we moved a lot and I took influences from different places. We spent four years outside Madrid, Spain when I was a child. I think the colors and flavors of life there greatly affected my view of the world and my art.” After Spain, The Murrells returned to the states and settled in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“I took art classes in college but didn’t consider it a real career choice because I was studying to be a child psychiatrist. I got a degree in psychology and then got an offer in Atlanta in the music industry,” Murrell continues. “I landed a great job with Red Distribution/Sony Records which lead to a dream job with EMI Records. I needed something to balance the craziness of the music industry so one afternoon I went to the art store and bought a canvas so huge that I had to borrow a truck to get it home. I put it in the corner of my kitchen and painted and repainted on that canvas for two years until I liked what I saw. I realized I needed to paint or I would go crazy.”
By 2009 Murrell was at a crossroads and realized she wanted her work to have deeper meaning. She began the search for a mentor. Answering an open call to work with renowned artist Louis Delsarte on his 125-foot-long Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mural introduced her to a collaborative artistic environment, which she loved. It also led to finding her mentor, Michael David, and the Fine Arts Workshop.
Working with Michael and the artists who are part of the Fine Arts Workshop has been a life-changing experience for Murrell as she begins to establish herself as a professional artist. In the process she’s been tracing her family history with art and connecting the dots. Her Mom is an avid art collector teacher and curator. And she discovered that her great uncle Elton Fax is a significant artist and writer.
It was while researching Fax’s work during the Harlem Renaissance that Murrell discovered cartoonist Jackie Ormes. The more she read about Ormes, the more she felt they were kindred spirits. Among Murrell’s favorite subjects is Jackie Ormes famous 1930’s character, Torchy Brown. Murrell’s “Torchy” series pays homage to Ormes.
Another step along Murrell’s artistic path has been working as a marketing consultant and a curator. Working in the music industry taught her valuable skills that she brought to the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s 2012 marketing team, in her current position with the National Black Arts Festival, and as the curator at Hammonds House Museum for the last two years.
“I love exhibition making,” Murrell says. “Instead of paint, I use an artist’s work as my medium. It has helped me grow as an artist. I study each of the mediums as we present them so I am learning constantly. I have become more sensitive to the partnership between art and the public.”
Whether painting or curating, Murrell has finally found a way to live the life of a professional artist.
The Bill Lowe Gallery is located at 1555 Peachtree Street NE #100, Atlanta, GA 30309. The Fine Arts Workshop Group Exhibition opens on February 21 and runs through April 27.
To see examples of Tracy Murrell’s art visit her web site at: www.tracymurrell.com.
# # #
MEDIA: For more information, high res images, or to set interviews please contact Karen Hatchett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-433-1137.