• Karen Seiger

Feature Story: Fine Art on City Streets with Tracy Silva Barbosa


I spoke with Tracy at length recently. She told me that she always had difficulty appreciating landscape painting. Throughout her studies at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, where she studied glass sculpture, she was attracted more to contemporary abstract art. She later moved to San Francisco and fell in love with Asian art.

“It’s amazing how they take the idea of a landscape and bring it to an abstract realm,” Tracy said. “I wanted to take it to a more American place, post-industrial and urban mixed with nature. Man + Nature + Industry, with the symbiotic nature of growth and decay.”

Interestingly, Tracy’s process is actually taken from a landscape painting composition. She starts with many layers of color, luster, gold and silver leaf. She then adds photographic imagery — buildings, plants, number patterns. She continues with 40 or more layers of translucent color, imagery, then more color and translucency. Her technique harkens back to her study of glass. The many layers she applies give room for the clarity with actual physical space. You can see the spatial differences between the images in a painting, almost like looking through layers of glass.

It’s impossible for me to select a favorite painting of Tracy’s, but for the purposes of this story, I asked her to focus on one that caught my eye, Between Dawn and Moon (above).

“It looks like a nest to me. Chandelier imagery came into my work slowly when I was pregnant. It was like a feminine, ovarian image. Turn a chandelier upside-down, and it’s the shape of a uterus and ovaries. And it gives off light. Light = Life,” Tracy says.

Tracy uses chandelier images in many of her work, pulled from a Sears Roebuck catalog from 1890, which, incidentally coincides with a period of rapid industrial advancement in Europe and North America.

As with all art, the way Tracy’s paintings makes you feel depends on the day. Some days, you will look at her work and see darkness, decay and crows. On other days, out on a sunny sidewalk or art fair, you may be more apt to see beautiful colors and translucent depth.

In addition to participating in the WSOAE in spring and fall each year, Tracy sells her work on the streets of Soho. She is proof that there are true artists supporting themselves and their families through direct sales on New York City’s sidewalks. She has worked with galleries, but she loves meeting people who stop to admire her work in the streets. She has met art collectors, out with their interior designers, who fall in love with the colors and images after not finding anything in the galleries all day. Her paintings are not inexpensive, but because she is selling them directly, she is not asking for gallery level prices.

And the best part about her selling her art on the sidewalk is that you get to meet Tracy in person, and often her husband, daughter or parents too. The exchange of stories between Tracy and her clients imbues her paintings with even more spirit and value.

You can find Tracy this weekend at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. Follow Tracy on Facebook to learn about where she sets up in Soho.

~ Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City


Moses Sunset by Tracy Silva Barbosa, 2013



Spire by Tracy Silva Barbosa, 2013


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© 2020 by Karen Seiger

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