Photo Courtesy of Tracy Murrell

Tracy Murrell is one of 21 artists in Michael David’s Fine Arts Workshop (FAWS), which collectively opened an exhibit at the Bill Lowe Gallery last weekend. Even among such exciting company, Murrell’s collection stands out due to her intense passion and clarity of vision.

In lieu of formal education in the arts, Tracy Murrell pursued her artwork through classes around Atlanta. By directing her own artistic education, she has been able to pursue her own interests and develop them with the help of classes, books and the occasional art major.

The tremendous rate of her growth is obvious by examining her online galleries: from her first painting, her message is lucid, but the execution becomes sharper with each passing collection.

Murrell’s sources of inspiration have varied, but for the last several years, she has focused on the vitalization of vintage photographs, particularly those featuring the female form.

The feminine form is of particular interest to Murrell because of the grace and energy women inhabit in real life which is so often not expressed in popular media. In response to the negative energy generated by the popular portrayals of women, Murrell has created glorious symbols of women as figures personifying grace and strength.

This focus on women and their intrinsic power intensified during FAWS, which, under the guidance of encaustic artist Michael David, has gained respect for its ability to kindle the creative expression of developing artists.

In this workshop, Murrell was encouraged to examine the form of these pictures, and she began to strip them to their essential outline.

While Murrell’s early works were painted in uncovered acrylic, she has slowly gravitated toward resins as a finishing medium that allows vibrant colors to come through while adding a gloss that gives her work a sense of visual finality and conceptual clarity.

Because of the bare nature of Murrell’s works, these finishing touches are of more import than they are in busier works, producing a sense of separation and cleanliness for the base painting.

Murrell gives two personal reasons that this exhibit is the most exciting yet. First, the Bill Lowe Gallery places her collection in its best possible setting. It is both objectively well-suited and embraces her work with finality and legitimacy.

Second, seeing the work of the entire FAWS group displayed cohesively after two years of collective work under David’s direction fulfilled in their final form is immensely satisfying to her as an artist.

During the beginning of the FAWS workshops in 2011, David assigned Murrell to find and explore artists in her family. Instead, Murrell stumbled upon the works of Jackie Ormes, and Murrell’s connection to Ormes’ work was formed instantly.

Jackie Ormes was born in 1911 and she became the first African American woman to become a syndicated cartoonist, creating the Torchy Brown and Patty Joe ‘n’ Ginger strips among others despite her lack of role models and numerous other obstacles.

Murrell considers this discovery to be the turning point in her artistic career thus far, and the difference will not be lost on her audience; the work inspired by Ormes takes the unforgiving portrayal of women and reincarnates it as a vivid negation of itself.