The Shifting Hues of Painter Tracy Lynn Pristas
|Dec. 1, 2003
|The Shifting Hues of Painter Tracy Lynn Pristas
Reviewed by Anna Poplawska
"I hope with all my heart that there will be painting in Heaven."
-- Jean Baptiste
The soft colors and limited palettes of Tracy Lynn Pristas' oil paintings have the same sort of emotionally soothing effect on the viewer as a yoga workout might have. Having also been a yoga teacher for nearly 10 years, this is an important aspect of painting for her. After teaching a yoga class in the morning, she finds that her mind is more focused and less fragmented when she arrives at her studio to begin her day of painting. Since she's a very intuitive artist, she finds that this increased mental clarity is important to her work. She doesn't plan any of her work ahead of time. Instead, she looks for inspiration as she works, seeking out the image within the paint and an inner feeling of completion that tells her that the painting is now finished.
The result is certainly pleasing to the senses, as in "Autumn Harmony," where our eyes can pick out the forms of trees and a forest among the subtle shifts of color. Striking to the viewer is that the forest, which seems to represent our own earthbound lives or the thoughts that clutter our mind, is small and distant towards the bottom of this canvas. Rising above it is a huge expanse of sky, which seems to be drawing us in towards a more meditative state. The colors shift between blue, purple and white, gradually deepening in hue as they reach for the top of the canvas, creating a sense of increased depth. As we keep looking, we become aware of hints of green, which seem to move from location to location, like an optical illusion, making the sky seem like a living entity with a will of its own.
Texture is an important aspect of Pristas' paintings. She builds it up gradually, layer upon layer, creating special effects with cheesecloth or a hair dryer to shift the paint. Sometimes she'll also scrape back the paint or spray the painting with citrus thinner. In "Autumn Harmony" the texture is especially pronounced in the sky and further increases our sense of its depth by giving the effect of ripples on the surface of the water.
As yoga practitioners, we may identify with the sense of freedom that Pristas has created in her painting entitled "Unbound Lotus." The yellow lotus itself is barely distinguishable among the shifting colors from the blue background, and it seems to float, free and contented, on the surface of the painting. The yellow specks around it bring to mind sunlight falling on the surface of the water and create confusion in the mind of the viewer. The lotus, at first glance, seems to exist in and of itself and is transformed into a reflection of the sun, a common symbol for Brahman, the creative principle. This spiritual aspect of the sun is captured in our yoga practice when we do the sun salutations, which are traditionally done at dawn and considered a prayer to the rising sun.
"Joyous Moment of Spring" is a striking contrast to the above pieces in its more dramatic color scheme of bright purples, yellows and a deep, rich green. It brings to mind the wild extravaganza of blooming flowers; in fact, we can also imagine their petals in the light blue splotches near the bottom of the canvas. We feel, in the dra matic colors and exaggerated textures, all the excitation that we associate with beginnings, whether it's a first yoga class, a life change or the start of a new project. Thoughts and fantasies rush into the mind, disturbing its even flow. But we are also reminded that such a beginning lasts for but a moment, a passing season in our lives.
Following the theme of seasons is a painting entitled "Frosted Winter Kiss." Spring, summer and fall have passed away. The dark, melancholy color and lack of detailing remind us that life is slowing down and the end of the cycle is coming near. Yet in the bottom right-hand corner--we can almost miss it if we aren't paying close attention--is a stem with three flowers on it. It's a fascinating and charming detail, which makes us feel happy despite the apparent melancholy of the season. It tempts us with the question, what sort of flower is this that can live even in the midst of winter? No sooner asked than the answer comes--this is the flower of our immortal soul.
Pristas is very aware of how deeply yoga practice can become imprinted on one's art. When she taught yoga at Columbia College, where most of the students are in an art-related curriculum, she would ask them as a final project to do something creative which might radiate who they are and how they see yoga becoming integrated into their lives. A student of fashion design printed an "Om" symbol into the fabric of a skirt. Another did a painting of a person in tree pose, with the chakras emanating along the spine. A musician composed music on his guitar; others wrote poetry. Pristas says, "As artists, we are our own worst critic, and we can block ourselves from being creative. What happens in yoga is you get into a meditative state which allows you to freely express who you are."
She has a number of professional artists in her yoga class now who have experienced the benefits of yoga. They include Susan Hall, represented by the Melanie Cooper Gallery; Ann Worthing, represented by the Aaron Packer Gallery; and Adam Siegal from Around the Coyote. Her own art is represented by the Spring Street Gallery in Galena, Illinois. It has also been exhibited in a number of venues including Women Made Gallery, the Around the Coyote Festival (where she won the Curators Choice Award in 1998) and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Tracy Lynn Pristas' work will be on display at the One of a Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart from December 4 to December 7. Show hours are Thursday and Friday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. , Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. , and Sunday 10 p.m .-5 p.m. Her booth number is 432, located in the second floor market suites. Admission to the show is $10. Her offerings will include large-scale paintings as well as smaller, limited edition prints, priced between $100 and $5,000. In addition, she will be giving a short lecture on Friday, December 5, from 1-1:20 p.m. entitled, "How Yoga Nurtures the Creative Process." For additional information about her yoga classes contact her at 312 409 8457 or E-mail her at info@ painterpristas.com. Also, check out her website at www.painterpristas.com.