Tracy McMenemy’s work continues to voice the geography, environment,

and history of a specific locale through her responsive engagement with

it. A recent move brought a variety of new stimuli to the artist’s studio,

and it was just outside her door that a specific aspect of the city’s culture

presented itself: the street poster.

Public posters announcing and celebrating local events are of course not

unique to our time. Paris’s Belle Epoque saw the flowering of posters

across the city following late nineteenth century advancements in

lithographic printing, with other European centres distinguishing both

their own styles and the unique cultural scenes they reflected. Art

movements themselves such as the Viennese Secession, the Arts and

Crafts movement, and Art Nouveau are inextricable from their poster

history, while extending across galleries, theatres, opera houses,

architecture, and interior design. These movements shared their

influence everywhere, and, through the street-level poster, with

everyone. The poster world that McMenemy investigates finds such

cultural reach and democratic resonance very much alive.

Tracy McMenemy’s body of work shows her consistently attuned to

details of her environment that give its wider characteristics voice. She

takes in her surroundings both specifically and as a whole, from allowing

Grand Cayman’s Silver Thatch Palm and the Hibiscus flower to shape

her compositions in her Hibiscus Thatch series, to her in situ digital

interaction with her forest,field, mountain, and seaside surroundings in

Folded Earth, to her site-specific interpretive documenting in Ghost

Passages of the McKenzie Shipyard.

The posters on street poles throughout her downtown location speak to

a vibrant, multi-level, interconnected arts scene. To a receptive observer,

their colourful graphics and varied styles offer an ever-changing reading

of the wider city’s colours. As with street posters throughout the world

and throughout history, this public, ground-level advertising platform is

anyone’s to engage, and offers to reach everyone. The posters also

belong very much to the present. The events they speak to play out

within a local time frame, while the paper itself gets overlaid, weathered,

and peeled through passing weeks and months. The pole’s history - and

the city culture’s - becomes layered like a tree’s bark does, and, in

McMenemy’s case, a location point for time and place.

Her initial response was to collect poster imagery, via photograph and

falling pieces of poster, into a small bank of materials in her studio. The

relatively small size of these posters and their fragments contrasted with

a sense of physical interaction on the scale of a full-bodied engagement

with the street and city. Without a preconceived plan around her

collection, McMenemy grew compelled to bridge these elements of

scale, inviting large canvases, broad brush painting, striking colour, and

an expansion of the collage aesthetic suggested by the posters’ layers

and pieces, to determine the main elements of this series’ visual


Her resulting series, aptly titled Post No Bills, captures the essence of

the public space posters occupy, and their fleeting presence in time. The

paintings’ size amplifies the open space - the street - where posters live.

In naming each work for the date on which McMenemy encountered the

poster, she holds their transience in time against the archivist’s - and

artist’s - creation of a lasting reflection of history.

In 15.03.23, we see parts of a street address and event date between

fragments of other poster pieces, all re-created with hand-painted acrylic

to mimic and enlarge the torn edges, folds, and wear of her original

subject. As with the other paintings in this series, the overall composition

is that of a collage, with the distinction that the textures, colours, and

shapes of her collected poster references are all re-created with large

scope brushstrokes on a single plane of canvas. 06.03.23 suggests a

stack of aged posters, with a wrinkled Monster Energy logo still visible

below the suggestion of a downtown street address. The painter’s full

body movement across these bright, full-sized compositions alternates

with specific recreated details of QR codes, dates, artist and venue info,

and other visual specifics original to the material of posters laid upon

upon posters, themselves interlaced with stickers, tags, and the other

street markings. The paintings’ emotive power plays out both in the

moving boldness of McMenemy’s large strokes and bold colours, and in

the immediate familiarity of the details she caringly recreates. The

importance of time is not only reflected in the titles, but in the

juxtaposition between the single frame image that any painting is, and

the wider passage of time, history, and change that a street poster

enters, and is soon engulfed by. Thus McMenemy works here to archive

an aesthetic that is both current and, as her paintings remain through

passing years, historic, ultimately transcending boundaries, cultures, and


Through her process, McMenemy also became drawn to masks as a

reflection of the poster’s human interactivity. In keeping with the sense of

collage developed in the paintings, she uses the poster fragments

themselves to build onto mannequin heads via acrylic medium. These

fragments, like this series, remain abundant, overlapping, and energetic,

as McMenemy works their ephemeral presence into a lasting reflection

of their time. While their incorporation of actual collage reflects pop art’s

found materials and advertising references a la Rushca, Warhol and

Rauschenberg, to which McMenemy is no stranger, her own organic

response to the immediate materials is precedent. The faces she builds

are covered in, split against, and shaped by the images around us.

These images, like this series, remain abundant, overlapping, and

energetic. McMenemy works their ephemeral presence into a lasting

reflection of their time, which she encourages us to recognize with the

same open invitation the posters themselves hold.