A Yet Un-nameable Dream 

Jamie Treacy - Regal Being in the Murk_
Regal Being in the Murk; acrylic, colored pencil, and cut paper on paper; 22″ x 30″ | 2016

Project Narrative:

A dream is a fertile beginning point for an artist because it so quickly dissolves if not documented. Dreams are the kernels of stories and the underpinnings of my paintings. My dreams, as with my earliest childhood memories, remain with me as color and texture impressions.  Even when I’m not able to name the characters projected upon my subconscious I can clearly recall the lighting, the time of day, the surface and a sense of the atmosphere.

Each work in this series begins with the dream memory in the form of a color field—in my case an expanse of similar colors that depict an atmosphere. While abstract, each painting could be categorized by its type of atmosphere: above-ground, below-ground, underwater, on land and in space. Within this atmospheric space, its occupants exist along a spectrum of opposites: biological and mechanical; menacing and delicate. I shy away from constructing explicitly recognizable beings, but instead borrow from universal devices and features found in the organic and synthetic: the jointed arm, the pinching claw, the net that gathers and the aperture that spews. Working in cut paper interests me because it allows for both intense planning and experimentation.  When I’m drawing and cutting out my more elaborate creatures, my reference material might include electron microscope images of algae or a section of a spider’s web. When I’m creating an imagined environment with layers of marks and milky puddles of acrylic, I imagine distant nebulas and gaseous currents in deep space.

This body of work is heavily influenced by my love of science and science fiction. As a high school student, I remember adoring Biology class and the assignment of diagramming life’s processes through illustration.  Later, while majoring in drawing in painting at the University of Michigan, I briefly explored the field of scientific illustration. I was drawn to the subject matter in my scientific illustration assignments: bug’s wings, ostrich bones, shriveled bell peppers and preserved organs.  I quickly discovered that my expressive and heavy-handed drawing approach was not conducive to illustrating these subjects in a way that would be actually useful to a budding scientist, but I was nevertheless enamored by the merging of science and creative expression.  Even as we invent devices to record the minuscule and distant wonders, artists are called upon on to imagine what can’t be directly observed.   One example is when I saw an artist’s depiction of how gravitational waves work in space. Black holes colliding and rippling the fabric of space-time—what a glorious and terrifying thought.

I seek to capture my reverence for the unknown by creating abstract worlds that remind one of spiritual touchstones. I use symmetry, repetition and strong figure-ground contrasts to evoke emotion from the layers of painted papers. Within my compositions, my creatures interact in gentle and menacing ways; and arrange themselves in glyph-like fashion as if trying to communicate in a language we haven’t yet learned.

View The Series as it Grows: Click on images to view in slideshow format


To Fortify the Forest Project Statement

To organize the greens,

To gather the browns,

To give names to the sticks.

To witness the departing moisture

And the membrane that cradles each droplet.

To welcome the presence of cracks and mold,

To escape from the city

Into the refuge of a leafy arc.

When I think about a forest refuge, I consider the comfort but also the sensation of being removed from my normal surrounding and how necessary this removal is.  The work in To Fortify the Forest is a deliberate visual escape.  In the bizarre botanical world, I imagine a post-human swamp wrapped in ferns, I witness ladybug infestations and I fuse the familiar with the out of place. These quiet spaces are a stage–devoid of an active human presence where I quietly document then invent stories.

In a span of four years of artistic growth, a common thread has been my inclination toward forests and botanical worlds as a setting for experimentation.  Beginning my creative process with photography, I gathered imagery from the Regional Parks in the Oakland Hills and the forests in my childhood home of West Michigan.  In the painting studio, I hovered between faithfully representing a natural space as I witnessed it  and  combining photos into a fictional space. In the canvasses with the most “realistic” attention to my subject, the compositions occupy the genres of still-life and abstraction through extreme shifts in scale and cropping. A dense clustering of spiderwebs that act as a soft-focus filter on the forest floor. A festooning of droplets across a web and a pulsing mass of insects on an instinctual pilgrimage. My painting approach centered on exploring color’s role in summoning emotion. Can a cluster of muted orange sticks titillate? Can a protruding root bathed in dusk-light cause the shoulders to slacken? The afternoon fluorescence of a maple on the Lake Michigan coast–can it enliven a spirit?

As I culled through past paintings and added to the series over the summer, I realized my paintings of plant-laden spaces contained evidence of climate and landscape change. In the front lines of our drought I was seeing an increase of trees with their root structures exposed and ground coverings clinging to mere hints of green vitality. Then, this August, I was compelled to paint the garish summer leaf-scapes of Michigan. Branches who are glorious gluttons for warmth and rain: At their August peak, they are the envy of the thirsty California branch; but in their winter dormancy, they are a bleak network of umber veins against against an impenetrable sky. This contrast intrigued me.

To Fortify The Forest is an exaltation of the plant world. An invitation for an escape from logic and our controlled structures. An illumination of the outstanding realms that exist in our periphery.

-Jamie Treacy, 2015

TO FORTIFY THE FOREST |Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings from 2012 to 2015

Oakstop Gallery

1721 Broadway (2nd Floor)
Oakland, CA 94612

A group of works on canvas and paper created over the past three years.  The mental escape of California and Michigan’s forests serve as a starting point in the artist’s altered and uncanny vistas that consider the changes in our environment and abstraction within plant life.

Exhibition runs from September 12 to October 31, 2015

Collector’s Preview:  Saturday, September 12 2pm to 5 pm

First Friday Reception + Artist’s Talk: October 2 5pm to 9pm

Gallery information:

Phone: +1-510-698-9370

Email: info@oakstop.com

Hours: M-F, 8:30am – 8:00pm


Photo by Xiomara Castro

stria |ˈstrīə| noun (pl. striae |ˈstrī-ē| )

Technical a linear mark, slight ridge, or groove on a surface, often one of a number of similar parallel features.

Anatomical any of a number of longitudinal collections of nerve fibers in the brain.

Writing about this body of work keeps bringing up a memory of the eerie hills of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It’s been 15 years since I saw those striped and cross-contoured hills  and their image still fuels my work. I was fascinated by the bands of color that wrap around the outcroppings, that seem to simultaneously swell up from and erode into the earth. I camped among those hills as a college student, and remember feeling like I had entered into an extraterrestrial expanse.  Even the water in the valley creeks was bizarre.  Fine pale gray sediment mixed with the water near my campsite, creating a river of milk.  I couldn’t resist wading through it.  Waist-deep in the opaque, churning waterway, fearful of a surprise slither from a hidden snake, I immersed myself in the history illustrated in the hills’ striations.

I remain fascinated with how the earth builds its forms. In tandem, I’m fascinated by the way living beings are held together with strands, fibers and membranes.  When I first looked up the word “striation” I realized how well it described this internal landscape I wanted to create, and also guides the way I want to work as an artist.  The pieces in Striation are built with visible marks and parts.  I’ve used cut strips of paper, drawn marks, surface rubbings and brushstrokes.  As a painter, I’m captivated by how my hand-drawn, painted or cut marks sometimes exist as independent objects – much the way small mosaic tile fragments separate from their whole when viewed up close – but also by how optical mixing occurs from further away, when the stria merge into the larger form in which they support. Each medium I’ve included is integral to the finished surface and the content of the painting.  Each work is part painting and part drawing, and in many works, part collage.  In the past I’ve only used cut paper for hard-edged graphic shapes, but in these paintings, delicate transparent papers are layered to obscure, and embed shapes beneath. Colored pencil is also an important addition because of it’s ability to subtly alter color, while enhancing the bumps and ridges in the paper fibers.

Photo by Xiomara Castro

For the last 10 years, I’ve used the terms “fictional landscape” and “internal worlds” to describe my painted environments. However, with this new work, I’ve challenged my own understanding of the landscape as a backdrop for living things to occupy. The swellings and depressions of land have actually become part of the story I want to tell. In the same way I’ve felt a lasting and emotional link to the painfully gorgeous Badlands hills, I want to create geologic and biologic forms that extend filaments of emotion to the viewer, to blur the lines between the setting and the characters within the setting.

The real-life terrors of drought, climate change and industrial waste were heavily present as I created these works. In the same way that science-fiction writers hold a mirror up to society to help us examine our world, I hope to do the same through my paintings.  In addition to the barrenness  of the Badlands, I’ve been inspired by diatoms (a type of algae), starfish and the chemical sludge lakes in China. All of these sources speak to the duality of our environment: its power and its vulnerability. While considering these works, I invite the viewer to look on the periphery of our infrastructure–into the soil, the water and the atmosphere–and to see ourselves as ingredients in a grand structure.

-Jamie Treacy,  May 2015