Tracy Helgeson’s artwork comprises relatively few elements: pure and saturated colors, often astonishingly intense; trees, barns and roads; well-marked lines, diagonal or straight; and a great deal of imagination that helps to organize all of these features into clean and straightforward compositions. In a way, her pieces can be compared to the first machines, which consisted of a few parts — but never failed to perform. Although all parts are indispensable, color often steps in as the main painterly propeller: the mentioned objects do not require much detail and palette naturally takes precedence.
As a result, many paintings carry a powerful emotional load. Tracy Helgeson prefers warm, sometimes outright hot yellows, reds and purples; she willingly experiments with value, particularly with shade, which adds a touch of dusky mysticism to the palette, while retaining its unusual intensity. I believe that her fanciful palette might be her most important artistic accomplishment — one that many artists spend careers on achieving.
The paintings convey emotional depth while remaining fundamentally unpretentious. Wide areas of color, of subdued, almost subconscious vibrancy, are allowed to affect viewers to the fullest possible extent — and suggest interpretations. The red barns may refer to the blood and tears of hard work, the purple trees suggest an autumnal sadness and loneliness, while the tinted blues and yellows instill universal calm.
Sometimes the paintings betray comic effects: the artist will slant the houses and the barns to expose their awkward side. In some pieces a grove will be broken into several groups of trees, a different color assigned to each one — implying rivalry, or a conflict. These devices generate interest, and make the viewers feel that they enter an untapped territory. Overall, the artist covers a wide emotional range, balancing earnestness arising from the palette with compositional cheerfulness.
A theme that recurs in Tracy Helgeson’s art is harmony: one, painterly formal, another, more allegorical, of people with nature. The two kinds often blend into one, while compositional harmony appears to comment on the relationship between people and their surroundings. Semblance of geometric forms — the roof of a barn and the top of a tree — not only contributes to a sense of compositional rhythm but also emphasizes the underlying link between humankind and nature.
*this article has been edited at a later date