When I attended The University of Michigan STAMPS School of Art and Design Penny Stamps Speaker Series one night in Febuary 2023, I had no idea I was about to be utterly inspired by the story and spirit of a woman such as Tracy Reece. Tracy is a fashion designer, activist, and all around incredible figurehead for women in Detroit who has made designs for names such as Michelle Obama and Taylor Swift. After seeing her speak and tell her story, I knew I had to include her as one of the Metro Women. Her heart for others and the community shines like a light in the darkness and proves that you can use your talents to uplift the community and give back.
Tracy's new collection "Hope for Flowers" based in Detroit aims to slow down fast fashion and employ people in the Detroit community with quality jobs. For Tracy's Portrait, I wanted to paint her wearing one of her own designs, surrounded by a border made of sketches and patterns from her actual collections framing her. The flowers adorning her head both hint at her new collection Hope for Flowers as well as represent qualities of who she is with each flower's type and meaning.
Bio: Tracy Reece is a Detroit Fashion Designer and Business Owner who just launched the "Hope for Flowers" Collective. Reese was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1990, and joined its committee in 2007, becoming its sole African American member. In 2007, she was appointed to the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Reese also served as the Turnaround Artist for the Barnum School in Bridgeport, Connecticut through the President’s Committee of the Humanities and Arts.
of Hope for Flowers
Detroit Project 2023 Abstract
Metro Woman is a mission to highlight current female powerhouses of all backgrounds who are working hard to benefit the current and future community of Detroit. Through elaborate, in-depth portrait paintings and interview audios of the selected womens’ stories, the Metro Woman art exhibition will inspire others to use their professions and passions as tools to grow the community of Detroit.
This project was a part of a semester long class going towards a Bachelor of Art and the University of Michigan STAMPS School of Design encouraging students to start a major and impactful proposition.
Of The W.E.L.L. Initiative
Sarah Johnson was reccomended to be to be included in the Metro Woman project by a pastor of revival Tab Church in Highland Park Michigan, Devin Dough. Devin descrubed Sarah as a selfless, hardworking leader who was pioneering a new way of help for the community specifically in health and wellness. Sarah Johnson is a physician, a doctor in sports medicine, who advocates for the less fortunate. Her non-profit "The W.E.L.L" Initiative is currently doing amazing things in the community of Highland Park. In her interview, Sarah spoke about her mission to "map out" the disconnected city of Highland Park in order to connect businesses and resources for those who are in need of help health and wellness wise.
In Sarah's painting, I had a lot of symbolic meaning incorporated because of the complexity and depth of her story. In the background, you can see the blue lines hinting at being water gushing from a well to give a nod to her nonprofit- this well pours down over a specific structure she mentions in her interview that happens to be in the Martin Luther King Jr park in Highland Park. Sarah speaks about how there is a lot of room for potential in Highland park not just structurally, but community-wise. I wanted this well to look like it "washing over" this community structure and giving it a clean, fresh start. Next to the blue well portion of the painting is a deep purple strip lined with gold markings. This pattern and deep color of royalty represents her father- quiet, hardworking, and wise. To the left of this is a deep red panel with a golden willow tree, representing the bold wisdom of her mother. Around Sarah's Neck lies a stethescope, her face looking upward in the sunlight with an expression of optimism and hope.
I look forward to see what comes next for Highland Park and what Sarah will do with the W.E.L.L Initiative to continue to build the community and bring wellness to its people, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
of Womxnhouse and Norwest Gallery
After visiting Womxnhouse and meeting Asia Hamilton myself, I wanted to include her as a Metro Woman immediately. Asia uses her curating talent to uplift women of color specifically in the Detroit community and gives them a chance to shine in her galleries. She gives them a voice and a stage to show their work and tell their story, which is what I wanted to do for her which made this interview particularly special for me. Asia is beyond inspiring as a leader, role model, and curator in her community and shares her story of how she got to where she is today so that she can be a helping hand to others.
In Asia's portrait, I wanted to paint her in monochrome blue while images of artwork featured in her gallery flow around her in the background. In her interview, I asked what if there was one moment where she felt proud of what she has done and she shares a moment where the opening reception to one of her galleries shows was ending and guests were leaving, and she had this magical moment where she just stared at the works in the room filled with beautiful art made by beautiful people, taking in all that they were. I tried to capture this moment in the piece by having everything else be black and quieted out in the background, but having the artwork shine through as the main focus. Asia is adorned with a cape as she is a hero for uplifting and helping other artists in the community.
About Womxnhouse: The inaugural Womxnhouse exhibition is the catalyst for the Womxnhouse Detroit artists and curatorial residency located in the childhood home of Norwest Gallery’s founder and director, Asia Hamilton.
About Norwest Galley: Norwest Community Collaborative/Norwest Gallery of Art has launched an inclusive artists residency to support BIPOC women and non-binary artists and curators as part of the initiative to build Detroit neighborhoods. The residency catalyzes growth for creatives by providing housing, studio space, stipends, exhibition space, and access to innovative networks. By providing a platform, space, and resources to artists and curators of color, Womxnhouse Detroit seeks to improve BIPOC representation in the art world across the board.
During the making of the three initial Metro Woman paintings, I found that the interviews were the most inspiring part of the design process. Behind every Metro Woman is an incredible story with intricacies that prove their hardworking and purposeful character. I hope that the extent of my project can give the viewers the same incredible experience of sitting down with these women and learning from them, and that it can impact people in the way that it has impacted me as the artist. Detroit holds heroes that deserve to share their stories and inspire others to run their businesses ethically, lift others up, and give back to the surrounding community.
In the future I hope to continue the series of Metro Woman to highlight the full 10 women chosen at the time of creation in order to give them a chance to share and teach to others in Detroit and beyond.