Artifice and Authenticity

Tracy 2
Untitled, oil on canvas, 24 by 36 inches, 2017

I haven’t seen Tracy Cirves since she graduated from Yale in 2010. It’s amazing to think it has been 8 years, because I think about her work all the time. I interviewed her here to talk about her paintings and the digital drawings she has recently begun making.

BRANDI: What is your relationship to the female figure in your paintings? Do you see your self in the figure or do you think of her as embodying someone different and completely fictional.

TRACY: Yes, I see myself in the figure, but it is still fictional.  When I first became interested in painting the figure, particularly the portrait, I started a self portrait series.  I painted myself in a much more representational style.  I became less interested in trying to express myself in a representational mode and became more interested in the metaphysical aspects of portraiture.    As I started experimenting with color the paintings  were more interesting to make.   My figures are pretty much all women because they started out as myself which lead me into an interest of the historical and contemporary representation of the female figure.  Not just through the image itself but as the creator of that image.   I never really meant to not paint men.  I do rarely, and someday I may paint more male portraits.  Now I am more interested in the expression of the artifice and authenticity of the feminine archtype.

Tracy 3
Untitled, oil on canvas, 36 by 48 inches, 2017

BRANDI: You have been making digital drawings. What motivated you to make them? What have you discovered that you like about it? Have they helped you make paintings?

TRACY: It is a very economical way for me to experiment with color and space.  I can keep saving a drawing as I am working on it and go back and make subtle changes and let them sit for a while.  My paintings require me to do a lot in a little time.  The drawings can rest.  it is a different way of working that I really like.

BRANDI: What artists are you interested in at the moment?

TRACY: Right now I have been looking a lot at Laura Owens, Ann Craven, Sophie Von Hellerman, and Grace Weaver.

Tracy 6.jpg
Untitled, digital, 2016

BRANDI:  Is there a story behind your images that you think about while painting? Do you consider your work narrative?

TRACY: Yes, I would say there is a narrative that stands behind the figure and the painting.  There might be something I am feeling or thinking about when I start a painting, but through transmutation it is altered. They are subtle and introverted, and that is who I am.  I am an introvert.  The paint acts as a filter for me.  I like to invite the viewer into my paintings but to keep an amount of filter up at the same time. A lot of the materials and things that appear in the paintings are from things that I have read, see on social media, events in my own life, my upbringing, or things that I may be making up about myself.

BRANDI: Your work shows invented scenarios and you work from your imagination a good deal. Do you feel like the events going on in the world, politics, etc find there way into your work?


BRANDI:  I asked this question before to Robert Nava, but I am curious what you  think too. If you could have a painting super power what would it be? For example I wish I could undo moves like in Photoshop.

TRACY: I would like to be able to remove swatches of paint from the canvas to reveal a pristine gesso surface underneath.

Instagram: @tracy.cirves  

The Color Hour

Tracy 1
Untitled, digital, 2018