We have long been fans of Tracy Gallup’s artwork. Soon after Book Beat first opened, one of the few artworks we’ve been proud to show have been the witty, quirky and wonderful handmade dolls she produces in very small limited quantities. The same unsparing detail she gives to her finely crafted dolls is also displayed in her paintings. Her work is lovingly cherished by collectors across America.
There is a slightly surreal and yet serene quality to her naive and primitive style and subjects. With a brilliant flower garden pallet and precisionist brushwork, Gallup’s paintings reminds us of contemporary British pictorialist’s like Gilbert and Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and the idiosyncratic painters of the PORTAL GALLERY, such as Kit Williams or Beryl Cook. Gallup’s paintings are perfectly formed worlds where her imagination roams free outside the restrictions of her sculptural doll works.
Gallup has maintained studios in Hamtramck (1980-1988), Royal Oak (1989-94), Chelsea (1995-2001), Ann Arbor (2002-present). Her apprentices have included the well known ceramic artists Marcia Hoveland and Laurie Eisenhardt. She cites Paul Klee as a favorite painter, and in a recent conversation noted, “My all-time favorite children’s book is GOLDIE THE DOLLMAKER by M.B. Goffstein, I also admire the illustrations of Edward Ardizzone, Angela Barrett, Louise Brierley, Binette Schroeder and Lisbeth Zwerger. Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry in GITANJALE is a daily inspiration to me.”
Gallup uses many of her own experiences, memories, reality based objects and settings to portray a highly personalized wonderland. She is most comfortable depicting familial settings, animals and pastoral gardens, often blending the natural world into her signature magical-realist style. There is also tension and humor in her work where our expectations can suddenly be turned inside out. Her gardens and classic tea parties are often the settings for deep Magritte like mysteries, anthropomorphic , nocturnal and metaphysical happenings that proffer closer inspection.
Some of Gallup’s imaginative dolls have featured wonderful oddities such as a polarbear chair, a mermaid throne, geometric blockhead families, house heads, acorn heads, teapot heads, upside down rabbits and cloud headed dolls in yellow slicker raincoats and boots. One doll contained switchable possessions you could remove and change from a hole in the hand. A series of fairylike butterflies are dressed in fancy sequined gowns and have poseable wings and antenna. Each doll is constructed with the utmost care. Every detail from the face painting to the clothing is amazingly thought out and meticulously handcrafted.
Gallup describes the origins of King Cat,” KING CAT came into being after meeting a man at the Farm Museum in Warterloo (that’s the house in the book) who had a Siamese cat named Shadow on a leash that went everywhere with him on his shoulders. He kept him in his pocket when he was a kitten. When I met him I visited his wife with Shadow daily in a nursing home. The cat in my book has the personality of our now deceased cat Kysie. Then Doug (Tracy’s husband is photographer Doug Aikenhead) showed me a photograph by Gary Winogrand of a young NY couple in the 60’s with a cat on their shoulders and I painted them as I imagined them in older age to create the Petticomb’s.”
The opening artist reception is on Saturday, November 25th, 2006 from 6:00-9:00 PM at the Book Beat , 26010 Greenfield in Oak Park. Tracy Gallup will be signing copies of her new book King Cat and exhibiting paintings from the book. Also in a rare live appearance will be the ghost painter for Mr. Petticomb, a character featured in King Cat. This will be the third exhibition of Ms Gallup’s paintings at the Book Beat gallery, and a rare opportunity to view and perhaps purchase an original work of art. Call 248-968-1190 for more information.