Tracy McMenemy is a multi-disciplinary artist who bridges painting, photography, installation and sculpture, and incorporates a range of techniques such as fumage, objet trouvé, and photographic transfer. She integrates artistic residency, field research, and work with museums through an investigative revealing and retelling of our historic and cultural narratives. Her work is compelled by the social dimension of art objects, from painting and sculpture to architecture and design, and from intensive research and the archival documents, images, and materials it uncovers.
McMenemy’s ongoing work with museums and archives is increasingly central to her paths of inquiry. She initiates her practice through site-specific travel and field research in context with investigations into historical images and stories that inform her understanding of places that captivate her. From here, her creative response starts with found objects – ship parts, blueprints, historical photographs, even debris from deteriorating buildings. As these infiltrate her studio they inspire a space for innovation and experimentation, a workshop to examine their physical and conceptual limitations.
The growing scope of McMenemy’s materials work to blur lines not only between established media such as photography and painting, but between artistic and non-artistic materials themselves. The utility of sailcloth is both reflected and distorted in its use as a projection surface. The symbolism of a wedding dress turns on itself through its tearing, painting, and fumage. Her work elicits an ongoing conversation between media: presenting their distinctions and similarities, and reflecting on their function in innovative ways.
Her early merging of media and materials focused on photography and painting.
“Photographs absorb, while paintings produce. My photographs absorb the detail, while my paintings produce an abstraction. By pushing these realities together within the same frame, I attempt to create a powerful tension between the two.”
McMenemy distresses the photograph itself to emphasize its materiality. Transferring the image onto a readymade surface, she begins this painstaking process by first removing the photographic paper using steel wool – strategically leaving behind selections of the paper to create a variance in texture. Paint, graphite and ink are then applied with the same mark-making techniques practiced in traditional painting.
More recently, she has used the tools of the maritime and its industry to create layers of social commentary in paintings, photographs, projections and sculptures. Her handling of physical sails reflects deep meditations on displacement and restoration, levity and weight, power and vulnerability. The symbolism of a bride’s wedding dress contrasts aspiration with confinement, hope with disappointment, and self-determination with oppression. As her historical investigations deepen, so does the poignancy of the interaction with her materials.
Beyond her work with museums and archives, Tracy McMenemy has a variety of private and corporate collectors in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver.