Artist Profile: Tracey Levine, Orcas Island

  • Tue Jun 17th, 2008 4:47pm
  • News
Top and bottom: Several of Tracey's art pieces. Bottom right: Tracey Levine

Top and bottom: Several of Tracey's art pieces. Bottom right: Tracey Levine

“My first great love was a box of crayons. It was 90 degrees in the shade and everything melted into one thick crayon cake. I’ll never forget how I bawled when I couldn’t draw with it. That’s my first memory of being an artist, with absolutely no choice in the matter.”

Tracey Levine works out of the home studio atop Buck Mountain she shares with her husband and collaborator Dan Crossman, an artisan knifemaker. Together they have created a living and working space that allows Tracey to branch out into different media, such as a new form she calls “nuclear art.”

They moved to the islands because “there are so many creative people here. It’s inspiration. Now everything inspires me, from a bug to a building. Everybody’s creative, just look around you. People who want and decide to try something, put their hearts and souls into it, then stand back and say ‘wow, I did that, I accomplished that.’ That’s full circle, it’s artistic. Everybody’s creative, whether it be music, performing, cooking, gardening, writing, whatever.”

Tracey has often switched mediums and worked extensively with advertising graphics, jewelry, photography, oil and furniture painting. Her recent work is a series of pastel paintings. “I love any medium that’s a challenge, to take a traditional medium and do something different with it. I chose pastels because they are so difficult and malleable, and I’d rather work with my fingers than with tools.” (Paintings in this series are currently on view at Country Corner Wine Cellar on Orcas.) The series is edgy, articulate, keenly intelligent and very funny — much like the artist who created it.

Conversation with Tracey is punctuated by raucous laughter, fun flights of imagination and rapier wit. She has been asked to write and perform political comedy, and is keeping a notebook of funny “bits.” Now that a large studio space has been completed, Tracey has begun working on “nuclear art.” A mixture of found objects, mixed media and airbrush, the work will often be transparent, often life-sized.

Tracey talks passionately about the interests she pursues through art, including the exploration of shadow sides of our natures. “It’s what’s beneath realism that interests me, not the dog Sparky or the quintessential mother/daughter portrait. Something intuitive about somebody, and how to paint that — you see the animal or darker side of someone, or a character defect, or you take the seven deadly sins and you start to paint them. By the time you’re finished you understand, you love those paintings, and it’s fascinating.”

Tracey’s training has included a degree from the Seattle Art Institute and numerous courses at three major Washington colleges. Her work received high awards at the Bellevue Arts & Crafts Fair, and has recently been shown at the Altered Aesthetic Gallery in Minneapolis and at Orcas Center. She hopes to soon sign on with galleries, both in the islands and on the mainland.

Today Tracey Levine is worried about whether kids will become artists for our future. “We shouldn’t make our children robots. We need dreamers, inventors, artists, scientists, people who can think outside the box and color outside the lines. We need the arts to grow creative people. It’s important to keep the generations involved, connecting the past, present and future.”

Tracey can be reached at