Talking Over “Things” with Traci Ultsch

Traci Ultsch gets candid as she talks about her latest exhibition “Things” with Dido Haas; she also opens up about her struggles with identity and how they have inspired and influenced her art.

“Can our life be summed up by the things we own?”

This was the question that got artists Traci Ultsch and Dido Haas thinking about which things in their life could be considered an inherent part of them. This talk sparked the creation of an incredible exhibition “Things” which is displayed at Dido’s Part of the Nitroglobus Gallery. It consists of eight brilliant works of art – four each by Dido and Traci.

“Dido and I try to do an extra exhibit each month”, says Traci, as we get talking. “We are close friends, and its always nice to work with her. She frees me up a bit and we bounce ideas off each other really well.”

Poster for the Opening of “Camouflage” by Traci at Nitroglobus; poster provided by Dido Haas

Traci actually began her journey in the world of art at the Nitroglobus Gallery itself.

“I have been into art and photography ever since I joined SL around 14 years ago, but I never really thought about exhibiting. It was only a chance meeting with Dido that led to my first exhibition last year”, recalls Traci. “A friend suggested she visit my home to see my work, and she offered me an exhibition there and then!”

And thus Traci’s journey commenced with her first exhibition “Camouflage” at the Nitroglobus Roof Gallery in November 2020 – which was all about identity and trying to hide the real Traci. Since then, she has been offered numerous exhibitions at various places and has had at least one new exhibition opening each month.

Talking about her art, Traci says, “For some of my works, I like to take printouts of SL images and mess around with them before uploading them back. I think it is a great way to work.”

“THINGS” by Traci and Dido at the Nitroglobus Gallery

I was curious about which artists have inspired or influenced her art over the course of many years.

“I think I am quite inspired by pop artists, a lot of comic artists like Steve Ditko and by the Futurist movement. It’s not surprising since I worked in the comics field on and off for a few years.”

And that’s when I learn she is an amazing artist in RL as well!

Traci smiles and says, “Ohh yes. In fact, my first exhibition, “Camouflage”, was a combination of my RL and SL works.”

ISHY – Traci’s small personal gallery space at Campbell Artists’ Village

Art has always been an extremely personal thing for Traci. It has been a way for her to work out her feelings on things and events she has been through. The trick, she says, is making it accessible to the viewer.

“My first exhibition “Camouflage” dealt with issues of identity. It’s been a journey for me dealing with mine as an agender person.”

Traci says she doesn’t identify with any gender in RL although her body is male. In SL, she is female, feels female and expects to be treated as one. She is quite open about this and does not want anyone contacting her to feel mislead. This has still created issues in the past.

“I still get abusive IMs from some people, though I have found the SL art world to be a very accepting and safe group in general.”

The kind of openness and honesty Traci has in her is a rare quality, often not found in most people. Just like her gender, she does not try to hide the fact that she is bipolar.

Traci says, “Being bipolar can sometimes affect my work. And I don’t try to hide it because it helps people understand my behavior at times. I like to think my traits as a person reflect in my work and I am able to create art which is quite honest.”

And sure enough, as I continued to look at her works in “Things“, the layers started to peel away to reveal more layers underneath. Traci pointed to one art work in particular – the image of a butterfly.

Traci incorporates a butterfly beautifully into this piece at “Things” to show her troubles with self-image

“I have used this work of art as a medium to show my troubles with self-image”, says Traci. “It might not be very obvious to the viewer; but for me, it’s there. I like to add these layers to my art, you can take it any way you wish.”

That is indeed the beauty of art – a single image created by the artist can have multiple interpretations depending on the viewer.

Speaking more about “Things“, Traci continues, “As you can see, me and Dido both have a sort of signature here. Hers would be the red swishes while mine would be the black crosses made from masking tape. The tape plays into my desire to obscure things; in this case, quite literally!”

I asked Traci how her artistic process is usually.

“I like to have some sort of meaning in mind before I even start working. Once I have the image in my mind, or something close to it at least, then I can start actually bringing it to life”, she replies. “Of course sometimes things change as I am working on it and I wander away from the image in my mind.”

CRASH – Part of a joint exhibit between Traci and Monique Beebe at Midgard Gallery (showing till June 2021)

Apart from being an artist, Traci is a person of many other talents. She likes to be a DJ at times and also plays piano and guitar in the noise drone music scene. She also adores city builds in Second Life. As she puts it jokingly, “If I’m not at the gallery, I’m usually found wandering in an empty city somewhere.”

Traci’s story and art can be a source of inspiration to many. The way she has gotten past her issues of identity and bipolarity to create some really incredible works amazes me. Using her so-called “weaknesses” as a strength, the art she creates is honest, layered and rich in meaning.

Other than what she is already making, Traci says she would like to do works which are more photographic and less abstracted. She also finds projectors and lights pretty interesting and something she might want to work with in the future.

Traci tells me she has a new exhibition coming up soon – hopefully some time around the end of April.

“This exhibition will be dealing with my previous issues with drug addiction and overdoses. I don’t really pick the easiest topics. I won’t say it’s fun for me, but it is an area I prefer to work in,” says Traci. “The works are more photographic than what I have done before. The expo will be big and hopefully, something that people will find interesting.”

Current Exhibitions by Traci Ultsch :

  1. THINGS (By Dido Haas & Traci) At Nitroglobus (Dido’s Section) – TELEPORT
  2. CRASH / PORTRAITS AND OTHER THINGS (By Monique Beebe & Traci) at the Midgard Gallery (showing till June 2021) – TELEPORT
  3. PORTRAITS at ISHY for a limited time, Campbell Artists Village – TELEPORT

Traci doesn’t post the artwork she exhibits inworld on Flickr because she believes it is important for art to own its space. Much like RL, she believes viewing art in SL should be an experience and the space it is viewed in matters.

“I think anyone who has seen “Things” will agree that Dido amply proves my point”, she adds with a warm smile.

But nevertheless her FLICKR does contain some outstanding works of art which she has not exhibited inworld. So make sure you check it out!