Metal sculptor Tracy Paul has a deep appreciation for science. A California native, she completed her graduate work at Arizona State University, where she studied at the High Resolution Electron Microscopy facility in the Center for Solid State Science, a consortium of the university’s physics, chemistry and geology departments.
For more than two decades, she has been the chief scientist at Depths of the Earth Company, where she and her team design and manufacture instruments for high-pressure, high-temperature materials research.
But she is also equally passionate about art, stating that “there is a science to art and an art to good science.”
She credits her parents with letting her explore her creativity in her youth.
“In sixth grade I tested as gifted and was encouraged to move ahead in school, but my parents didn’t want me to rush through childhood, so they channeled my energy into extracurricular science and art,” Paul said. “My great uncle was a marine biologist and mathematician who used our local tide pools and beach cliffs to teach me the scientific process. I learned painting, stain glass, printmaking, ceramics, and woodworking at the local artisan’s workroom.”
While completing her graduate work, she took up furniture construction and woodworking through Rio Salado Community College.
“After graduation, I was teaching at Mesa Community College in 1997 and decided to take a course offered on campus called Welding for Metal Sculpture. Rod Hammel, one of the great teachers in my life, and a local Carefree artisan himself, taught the course. It is likely that Rod ignited the creative pursuits of many of Sonoran Arts League’s metal workers.”
She instantly loved the welding fabrication and finishing process, and her background in chemistry delighted in the physical and chemical patina of metal surfaces.
Her current body of metal work is the representation of local flora and fauna, and she draws much of her inspiration from her spirituality.
“I am guided by my Lutheran faith, and I also have lived in close commune with Nature and natural phenomena…the kinds of things that science is hard pressed to explain,” she said. “I believe that my work is guided by a force greater than myself and is a gift unique to me. Sure, I know how to develop particular colors and surfaces in the chemical processing of the metal, but I can’t explain how I can finish a piece, set it out in the rain, and return to discover that Nature’s patina is 10,000 times more amazing than anything I could mix in chemicals. To me, that is God’s kiss on my work.”
For Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour 2017, Tracy is a guest at Nicolette Bonnstetter’s studio #7, where she will exhibit a variety contemporary metal and mixed media sculptures, including ravens, plants, desert birds, small garden totem wish sticks, and tall, thin story poles.
“Almost all of my work carries the sense of humor and abundance that I see in life around me,” she said. “The work embodies animals doing silly things. When Nature is your subject matter, and metal is your medium, the possibility of expression is endless!”