Sixty Search Dropdown Menu

Snapshot: Tianna Bracey

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers a list of short and sweet questions…

Image: Tianna Bracey, Self Portrait, 2018. Painted on a limestone colored background is a female bust . The variants of brown in her skin accentuate shoulders, collarbones and jawline. She looks to the right, smiling and her brown hair is pulled back into a sleek bun at the nape of her neck. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers a list of short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For the newest installment, we sent our questions to painter, Tianna Bracey, whose work can be seen at the Zhou B Art Center as part of the exhibition, Black Love Matters, through November 9th.

Sixty Inches From Center: How would you describe your work?

Tianna Bracey: My work explores the subtleties of the painterly and figurative form. It is intended as recognizable snapshots of the female experience, ranging from the pleasurable to the mundane. I employ body language, gesture, movement and expression as narrative tools. Through every piece I aim to celebrate the power and vulnerability of women through portraiture.

Image: Tianna Bracey, River, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. The bust of a light skinned woman faces outward. She has long, straight blond hair. Her eyes are closed and mouth slightly open in a slight smile. Her hands delicately come together under her chin. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What do you find most challenging about working as an artist?

TB: Knowing the difference between when to let go and when to push through is by far my biggest challenge. I have no problem painting over something. I don’t get attached and that can make it hard to stay committed to a painting that’s proving to be difficult to complete. However, when I finish a work of art that seemed like it was not going to come together, or that skill-wise I was incapable – that’s the most rewarding experience. In actuality, it’s self doubt and there is no better feeling than proving yourself wrong.

Image: Tianna Bracey, Joan Detail, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. A detailed view of the right side of a woman’s face takes up the entire canvas. Her eye is closed and only half of her mouth is visible. From this intimate close-up, the brush strokes of skin colored shades define her cheekbone, chin and neck. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What captures your attention as an artist?

TB: I’m captivated on the train. People rolling their eyes at conversations, twisting their nose at a smell, biting their lip – so many little moments found in everyday life capture my attention and I try to incorporate that into my art.

Image: Tianna Bracey, MJ, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. An African American woman covers the right side of her face with her brown curly hair. Her face is angled away from the viewer with only the left side of her face toward the viewer. Her left hand crosses over her body and holds her hair in place. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What is your process like?

TB: My process usually begins with mixing paint and a dope playlist. Even if I don’t have the faintest idea of what’s actually going onto the canvas, I know the tones that I like to work in. I use the same color palette for multiple paintings so that’s always a great starting point. From there, I may do a quick sketch just to lay down a composition but I try to have the entire canvas covered pretty quickly. That’s mostly because I’m really impatient and like to see what I’m working with but also because each painting requires multiple layers and I’m accounting for drying time. After that, it’s up in the air. Sometimes I really love a painting and can knock it out in a few days. Other times, it’s really challenging and I may be working on a single painting for months before it’s done.

Image: Tianna Bracey, Diana Detail, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. A detailed close up of a woman in profile painted on a grey background. Her lips barely touch her shoulder as she looks beyond the canvas. Each eyelash, crease, and shadow are heightened in this close-up painting. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What is your relationship to Chicago and how would you describe its art scene? Is there anything you would change about it?

TB: I’m a kid of divorce. Both of my parents are from the Southside of Chicago, so I was born here but raised in Central Illinois. My dad has always lived in Chicago, so I spent many summers and holidays here growing up. For a long time Chicago was the representation of the divide between my parents. But ultimately, Chicago is where art became real for me. The Art Institute is the only place I’ve ever had anything close to a religious experience. I remember seeing Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” for the first time and being completely moved. Now I live in Logan Square, which is full of street art by my favorite artists such as Hebru Brantley, JC Rivera, and Dont Fret. The art scene here is insanely vibrant and collaborative. Everyone has a side hustle, everyone wants to cultivate meaningful connections, and everyone wants to make Chicago a better place. There are endless opportunities to show your work and get involved, if you’re willing to put in the time.

Image: Tianna Bracey, Joan, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. A brunette woman pulls her hair back into a ponytail. Her eyes are closed. The muscles on her arms are subtle but accentuated as they would be when performing the action in real life. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What would you like to have your viewers take with them when they view your work?

TB: In my opinion, good art requires you to do some self reflection. My work celebrates the beauty in minor, even mundane moments. For example, I have a piece featuring a woman pulling her hair back. It’s something small, that we all do daily but we all probably do it differently. Depending on your hair, if you’re in public or in private, if you’re in a rush, etc. I want viewers to reflect on their own small moments, and through that allow themselves to stay there just a little bit longer. Additionally, I want viewers to think of each painting as the embodiment of a real woman. I title them with real names, which I put a ton of thought into. A name tells a story, so I like to add that additional context to each painting. In real life settings or on social media I tend to call my paintings babes or ladies, it feels more true to me. Art can be a little elitist and people struggle with how to consume it or talk about it. So by referring to a piece as she/her/babe/lady hopefully it makes viewers feel at ease.

Image: Tianna Bracey, Delilah, 2018, 20in x 20in. Oil on canvas. Seen is the entire upper body of a woman. She is wearing a cream colored strapless top that covers her breasts. Her head is tilted back, revealing her neck. Her eyelashes are wisps against the pastel pink background and long brunette hair frames her neck. Her left hand gracefully touches her collarbone while the other rests in front of her chest. Image courtesy of the artist.

SIFC: What are you currently working on and what excites you about it?

TB: I’m working on two projects that I’m really excited about. The first is a new series of paintings. I’m going much larger in canvas size and focusing on the essence of female relationships. Luckily both of my grandmothers are still alive, my mom is phenomenal, I have 4 sisters and really supportive female friendships, all of which have influenced who I am as a woman and as an artist. In visual culture, whether through TV/Film or advertising, we zone in on romantic relationships – mostly heterosexual partnerships. But through this new series of paintings, I want to shift our focus. There are so many stories to be told through how we connect with other women. I’m excited to share them through portraiture. The second is a collaboration with Lost Girls Vintage, a local vintage shop that does pop ups around the city. We are creating a collection of hand painted denim pieces that will launch in mid- January. This is my first brand collaboration and has already been an amazing learning experience. It’s pushing me to think of my artistic practice as a business. Making my art more accessible through collaborations is definitely something I want to do more of in the future.

Featured Image: Image: Tianna Bracey, Self Portrait, 2018. Oil on canvas. Painted on a limestone colored background is the female bust. The variants of brown in her skin accentuate shoulders, collarbones and jawline. She looks to the right, smiling and her brown hair is pulled back into a sleek bun at the nape of her neck. Image courtesy of the Artist.


Tianna Bracey is an emerging visual artist exploring the female experience through portraiture. With a degree in Art History, she has a critical view of the canonical male gaze and values portraying women from the female perspective. Although her work features ladies of all shades, as a woman of color she aims to create more representation of black and brown bodies.



More by This Author

Related Articles