The television is always on at Tracie Brownlee's house, yet she never watches anything. It's background noise; everything comes to her in bits and pieces. In this age of the 24-hour news cycle, if she misses something good, it'll be on again. "The only time the TV's off is when I'm painting," she says.
What she paints are snapshots of news and reality TV. She records any particularly interesting footage, then digitizes a few seconds of it on her computer and goes through the images frame by frame. When she finds a shot she likes, she prints it out and then paints the image on canvas.
"It goes through several generations," Brownlee says, producing a sort of "wet into wet" effect. This look is created when the artist paints one color next to a different hue of paint that hasn't had time to dry. The two blur together to create a fuzzy edge. Like with the pixels of a TV screen, the image looks sharper when you stand farther back. Some of these paintings will be on view in "Channeling" at DiverseWorks, as part of a multigallery art opening known as the Downtown Stomp Around.
"We all borrow from collective images," Brownlee says. We are all instantly connected to every part of the globe and experience the world through our monitors and screens. "Nothing is really exotic anymore; it's all familiar to us."
In addition to being a news junkie, Brownlee admits to a fascination with Jerry Springer and Judge Judy. "I think it's a backlash against political correctness," she says. On these shows, people say what we aren't allowed to say in polite conversation. And, she insists, we can learn a lot about ourselves from what we choose to watch.
As any good archeologist knows, you learn the most about a culture by studying its garbage.