about doing the work, thecanadaproject interviews

Tracy Wideman, painter of icons

IMG_21871/As an artist and an upcoming therapist, what is the wellspring of your work?

The source of the wellspring seems to be an inner drive that agitates if unattended to. Engaging in the creative, the psyche and healing process keeps the wellspring flowing and provides much sought after balance.

2/When you create icons, what happens to your sense of time? How long, on average, does it take you to create an icon?

I studied with an amazing iconographer and teacher, Frank Turner. Much of my icon painting was done in the sanctuary of his studio in Port Moody on Saturdays for several years. My first icon under Frank’s instruction took almost a year. It was more of a contemplative and healing practice than personal expression. The hours would drift as we listened to Gregorian chant, discussed theology or worked in silence.

3/What are your thoughts about faith, community, living in the city?

I hail from the prairies and a rural farming community, so I learned to equate faith with community. I have deeply entrenched ideas about the ability of urban space to provide authentic connection. I often label Vancouver as feeling superficial and lonely, but I think this just gives me an excuse to defer to solitude. I seek social spaces that offer soulful connection and I’ve recently opened myself to the possibility of finding a spiritual community in Vancouver.

4/What do you like best about your life?

The humour and beauty in life keep me attentive and engaged. I thank my brother for this. He was born mentally challenged and has been labelled with all sorts of psycho-pathologies. I’ve never loved someone so much – he has no inhibitions, says the unsayable, and expresses his anger and joy fearlessly – and he provides me with the best laughs.

5/When did you first start painting?

My first recollection of painting was with Mr. Dressup as my teacher. With some trepidation, my mother accommodated my creativity as I would rip the house apart in search of materials to try and keep up with his tutorials in real time. We had no recording devices back then.

6/Can you share some details about your artistic process: do you work in a studio? What materials do you use to create your art? Do you begin with sketches? etc

When painting the icons, it began with sacred geometry and mapping the image with a compass and tools, followed by materials such as clay, fish glue, gold-leaf, pigments, vodka, wine, garlic…it was wonderful to experience the age-old materials. But I have not painted icons for some time as I turned to expressive art with my master studies in psychotherapy, spirituality and art therapy several years ago. I used to use the excuse that not having a studio prevented me from doing art. But even now that I do have more space in my apartment, I always find myself drawn to and working best in the kitchen. It is a bit cliche, but I guess the kitchen is where I feel most comfortable and inspired to create.

7/ Have you ever travelled outside of North America to view religious/historical iconography? 

I worked in Sudan in 1996-1998. This is where I first became intimate with Orthodox (Coptic Christian) icons. My particular Mennonite church tradition was somewhat anti-imagery and self-expression (I remember well the time the church allowed some quilted like tapestry in the white-walled sanctuary or when a girl was admonished for a liturgical dance). So finding myself in the churches in Sudan with the incense infused haze and the encircling icons opened my imagination to the possibility of participating in and appreciating a ritualistic church experience. The sensuality of this experience is what triggered me to seek out iconography instruction upon my return from Sudan.

10/What plans, if any, do you have for exhibitions or online spaces for the sharing of your art work?

I plan to set up a website connected to the other work I’m doing in graphic facilitation/recording this coming year.

4 thoughts on “Tracy Wideman, painter of icons”

  1. Such beautiful work. In the interview, Tracy spoke of different styles of the visual medium she has explored – iconography, expressive arts, graphic recording. I would be curious to know if there was one particular style that she is drawn to, or is it something that has evolved with different life phases?


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