GRITS: Jamie Treacy

I often tell my friends that raising a child is like watching the story of self-discovery unfold. For the last 8 years, I had the indescribable pleasure of witnessing the first of many things with my children, their first words, smile, friendships and so much more.  But what's even more amazing is that each of these milestones were shaped by not only what they saw and heard but also what they felt. I believe that that they will continue to recount those experiential observations, to identify and make sense of both the world around and the world beyond.

Today's featured artist, Jamie Treacy, masterfully interprets his world beyond through his work as a multi-media artist and educator.  I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Jamie through our common interest in all things art and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) education.  Anyone who has ever met Jamie, knows that his generous spirit and unyielding enthusiasm for arts education is apparent in his work.  Jamie is an Oakland resident and community steward.  His practice is largely interdisciplinary and diverse, much like his surrounding community.

At first glance, one may interpret Treacy's work as an ode to the world of sci-fi and the post apocalypse awakening. And while there may be visual prompts that would suggest such an interpretation, a closer look reveals that Treacy's work is often more influenced by his own perception and exploration of sensory experiences and the uknown.  Treacy thoughtfully illustrates these experiences in his work through his use of abstract forms, texture and vibrant color.  

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Jamie's home studio where he is preparing for his upcoming exhibit, "The Unprepared Eye", opening August 17, 2017.  I sat and we had a chat.  This is what Jamie had to say.  Enjoy!

Source: Art Is Luv and Jamie Treacy

On discovering my inner artist
My dad built an art table for me when I was around four years old.  It became my childhood studio.  It was at this table that I discovered my inner artist. I remember visiting my cousins one summer, and asking where their art table was. I thought it was so odd that they didn’t have a dedicated place for messy exploration.  

As a young adult, my inner artist was the set of tools I relied upon to sort through my identity. It gave be license to determine how I wanted to be seen in the world without worrying what people thought of me too much.  From there forward, I totally owned the idea of leading with my creativity.

Never thought I’d take a chance
I never thought I would take the chance and return to competitive swimming.  I left the sport when I was 18, with a very “all or nothing” attitude.  I trained hard for ten years with dreams of competing in the Olympics.  At 18, it felt like I had reached my physical peak. Competing in the pool felt impossible alongside the late nights in the studio and punishing deadlines in art school. At 29, I took the chance to join an adult swim team.  Now, seven years later, it’s a huge part of my identity!

On what inspired my new series of works
I recently discovered the work of early twentieth century Swedish abstract art pioneer Hilma af Klint through the exhibition, "Painting the Unseen". I resonated with her work on several levels. First, she creates fascinating connections to science and spirituality, but perhaps most importantly, she presents abstraction as a strategy for representing the unseen world.  The idea of an unseen, or even unknowable internal world fascinates me.  It could refer to microscopic organisms, or undiscovered life-forms about which one can only postulate, or just internal emotional sensation. In my work I explore the relationship between the experimenter and the subject. When I reflect on this interplay, I’m reminded by how much we destroy in order to understand how something works.   Even though I’m working in the visual language of abstract painting, I relish the thought that I’m portraying forms that are unfamiliar and unnamed yet containing a form of intelligence for which we are unprepared to process.  

Much of my artwork in this current series are abstractions of aquatic environments. My subject matter is directly connected to the sense memory of swimming in the Bay. Battling through tangles of kelp, being jolted out of my skin by a seal popping up to greet me and fearing what lies in the murk below me. 

On "living art"
Living art means that anything is fair game for new material in my work.  I’ve always drawn heavily from the subject matter and colors around me.  I may be in a staff meeting at school and sketch a fire alarm, and then later morph it into a subterranean exploration device.  Living art also refers to my art materials.  My cut paper works are made with discarded scraps in my classroom and remnants from home improvement projects.  The wood in my frames is reclaimed from dozens of shelving panels that were thrown out at my school. Living art means that I must figure out how to make the creation of art objects sustainable at any cost.  

On being a new homeowner
I’ve always felt like surviving as an artist feels like a battle.  I’ve been displaced so many times, and I’ve had to abandon artwork more than I’d like to remember.  For years I’ve improvised art studio space in driveways, stairwell landings and kitchen tables.  Being a homeowner has given me the stability I desperately needed to grow as an artist.  I feel a great sense of satisfaction but also responsibility when in my studio.  I know I need to show up for myself and create work that deserves to take up space in the world.

On staying the course
When I was ten years old, I decided I wanted to live to be [at least] 110 and now I realize how much that vision drives much of what I do.  My great-grandfather lived a long and vigorous life, and he was the only person I knew his age who loved his work too much to retire.  In my early years as an artist, I immersed myself in learning about the lives of “marathon artists” rather than those that burned bright in youth and died young.  Artists like, Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Elizabeth Catlett, David Hockney my aunt and artist mentor Joan Tanner were artists that stayed the course with their creative vision through decades, and demonstrated sustained growth and a hunger to drive their work forward. 

Staying the course means sustaining my artistic growth; and creating my best artwork at the end of my life! 

On human kindness
As I grow as an educator, I’m reminded that I’m most effective when I build strong relationships with my students.  That means learning about their lives, being in awe at what they’ve overcome and being intrigued by the unique ways they respond to my art assignments. When I think about the educators that made the biggest impact on me, their compassion was the key ingredient in that impact. Even if my students never take another art class, I hope they remember me as someone who cared and who shared with them the joys of being creative. Kindness means offering someone choices rather than ultimatums,  encouraging others to define greatness for themselves, and providing a safe space for exploration and risk-taking.

On "What's next?"
I just completed a major overhaul of my website,, which includes the last several year’s worth of work and and a brand new online store for my small works and prints. 

In August, my exhibition The Unprepared Eye will open at EBMUD.  The exhibition will include work from the past two years! 

Lastly, I’m on a mission to find a long-term gallery home that is excited to represent me and help me grown in my career.