This HOUSE CALL series is a gift, one that is connecting us to some of the artists and activists that are part of our family. Today we are honored to provide you an update on the life and work of artist and educator Traci Mims as she rides out this time of pandemic in her Jacksonville home with her son and daughter. Traci is one of the most prolific and skilled artists I know. I recently saw her use the word ‘determined’ to describe herself and that really says so much about Traci Mims. Her humility, combined with her artistic gifts and social justice leanings, make her a force to be reckoned with.
If you made it out to Yellow House during the (Re)Set the Table exhibition in 2019 you could not miss Traci’s work as six of her works served as powerful anchors in a show about identity, belonging, and power. Her towering drawing of Sojourner Truth was a beacon of beauty, strength, and truth telling and her self-portraits engaged and inspired visitors of all ages. Or maybe you have seen her work at the Jax Makerspace, the Ritz Theatre and Museum, or in Jen Wolfe’s recent exhibitions and publication as part of Women Writing for a Change.
She is currently producing a series featuring women’s experiences in the workplace, a timely body of art to be putting her hands to with the prevalence of stories about workers during the era of Covid19. The images in the interview below are from that series and are fresh off the easel. The weight on my heart is a bit lighter knowing she is well and has “not put that brush down.” After getting this brief glimpse into her world, I highly recommend following (and collecting) Traci on Instagram to watch her at work as she paints, carves, prints, and stitches remarkable portraits that help us all to better see this world around us.
How has this time changed, informed, motivated, or hindered your art?
Well, it has really hindered my ability to publicly exhibit or to travel with my art. I also missed out on a major competition, which was disheartening. But I can’t imagine doing anything else other than art nor do I really want to.
On a positive note, I have produced more art than I usually would under normal circumstances, because the social aspect of going places is off the table right now. Being isolated has made me more resolved to push against the forces that are holding us back. What I won’t do is give in to a defeatist attitude. I grew up as a competitor in several different sports and a lot of that stays with you in your outlook about life’s circumstances. I want to yell “We are Artists!” We don’t put the brush down when times get difficult. That’s when we should increase not decrease.
At the same time it’s shown me the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective. Life and health are fleeting things, they come and go. We must try to live to the fullest.
Is there anything you have connected to you in yourself or your external life that has brought unexpected joy during this time?
It has made me a more resourceful, nurturing and caring person. More relaxed, less stressed, rushed and hurried. I’ve started gardening again. I am reading, cooking, sewing, appreciating quiet time, nature and little things that escape us in a hurried life when we are busy and all over the place. I never sat on my patio before this.
I know you have been creating during this time. Give us a glimpse into that work or your process. Is it similar or different from how you typically work?
I have created a lot of work. I find that I’m experimenting more and trying combinations I probably wouldn’t have before simply because it was very process-oriented or time consuming.
I transformed my bedroom into a studio!
I am also putting more time into the business side of art rather than just creating. Doing research on how to be better at it and survive during these challenging times.
Are there any works of art…a poem, a piece of music, a book…that have brought you strength or solace during this time?
I’ve been praying and listening to a lot of music…Gospel, R and B, Eric Benet, Ledisi, Maxwell, and Bill Withers. I have also been reading a few books on women’s work, an anthology of African American women’s writing from the antebellum south, and The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke. Of the shows and movies I have watched some of my faves were Hunters and Unorthodox. I also rewatched all the seasons of a Handmaids Tale.
Dreamer. Visionary. Mother. Artist. Teacher
About the HOUSE CALL Series
Yellow House is checking in with the artists, writers, performers, and activists who have filled our space with their works and voices. During a time of crisis, creatives are faced with the same challenges, anxieties, and opportunities as most of us, yet they can offer unique perspectives on how to adjust, evolve, and understand. As observers and empaths, they can help us see ourselves and the world around us more fully. And in all honesty, I just wanted to know how our people are doing during this time of threat from virus, social distancing, continued work, and adaptation. One aspect of community care is to check in our neighbors and we are doing it the way we know how, through a series of intimate glimpses into lives authentically shared.
Interviewed by Hope McMath