Interview: The Transformative Nature of Art with Tracey Bolton

Tracey Bolton is an artist based in San Francisco, California. She explores the themes of vulnerability and transformation through her photographs of plants and flowers.

When did you start photographing flowers?

In 2013, after spending more than a decade co-running a small user experience and brand development studio in Los Angeles, my husband and I moved to San Francisco for a new career opportunity. At the same time, I had been battling a chronic illness for about ten years and more recently was struggling to cope with multiple pregnancy losses.

The grief and shame were weighing on me and I tried my best to fill my life with work and distractions to avoid the pain.

I thought I was coping OK and that time would heal me but in reality I was barely keeping myself afloat. After our move I started experiencing insomnia and anxiety attacks, my heart was racing all day long. With the support of my husband, I finally decided to get help and make some changes including a break from work to focus on self-care. I began working with a therapist and discovered I was suffering from PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It took several months but I finally found ways to manage my grief in a healthy way. I started meditating, exercising regularly and making art. That’s when I began photographing flowers.

What inspires you to pick up your camera?

I guess what inspires me is the desire to lose myself, experiment and express myself through the images I make. I think flowers and plants provide a fantastic vehicle for working through these concepts so when I see flowers and plants that speak to me, I have to photograph them.

How has your art helped you deal with specific challenges in your life?

I read somewhere that looking at flowers reduces stress, stimulates the brain and can speed healing. I’m not sure if that is what draws me to them but I have found that photographing flowers and plants brings a sense of calm to me. My mind quiets as I lose myself in the folds, textures, colors and fragrance of my subjects. After I spend a few hours shooting, I feel grounded and satisfied.

In my work, I explore the concept of vulnerability.

Did you deal with any reservations about sharing images that feel so personally connected to you?

Yes, I am often nervous to put new work out into the world and not because it’s necessarily controversial but because I have strong emotions tied up in it. I just keep trying to remind myself that the more honest I am and the more I share the intention behind my work, the more authentic my connection to my art and my audience is.

Why is it important that we explore our creative impulses?

When we give ourselves permission to honor our creative impulses by expressing them, whether in words, paint, photographs, song, the more we trust our instincts and gain confidence.

How do you feel art, creativity and expression connect us to our spirituality?

I think like spirituality, art and creativity come from our souls and can help us explore things that are hard to articulate or understand. It’s a way of tapping into and honouring truth and faith which is both freeing and enlightening.

What is your advice to anyone wanting to explore art as a therapeutic or transformational tool?

Try not to focus on the outcome of your explorations and remember that the process of creating is where the therapeutic effects and transformation take place.

It’s mood boosting and transformative and I have found this spills into other areas of life.