My name is Tracy Keller Nickolaus. Born in Washington DC, and raised in Maryland. In 1993 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, in Studio Art, from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. My area of concentration was watercolor painting and portraits. In 1994 I was hired as a desktop publisher and lead technical graphic artist for Lockheed Martin. I later transitioned to publication management jobs. In 2002 I chose to stay home and raise my two sons. While my kids were small I ran an Etsy store that sold stylized acrylic animal paintings, and custom illustrated watercolor name paintings for children. In 2007 our family relocated to Milwaukee.

In 2017, as my children got older, I started an anonymous art Instagram account, @indigodownload. This account is where I began posting portraits. I committed to a consistent art practice that was made daily by the pandemic. In the last 2 years I have posted consistently to my “story” as well as many finished pieces to my account. These 24-hour posts gave me confidence to showcase informal and differing styles of work. The art in my stories reflect influence from many online classes I have taken over the last 5 years.

Mediums: Acrylic paint, found fabric on canvas
Favorite Artist Tool: Toothpaste squeezer used on paint tube
Go-to Local Inspiration: Running by Lake Michigan
Mentor Compliment: I’m grateful that Jaymee has artfully taught me how to connect the dots between my life experiences and my work. She questions me and pushes me without ever undermining my confidence.
Fun Fact: I have no tattoos, but I’ve always wanted to be a tattoo artist.
Serious Fact: It’s impossible for me to eat hot food without burning the roof of my mouth.

Artist Statement

My paintings are a tribute to people who lose their memory and their families who witness this slow decline. The act of creating these portraits is how I process grief as Alzheimer’s and dementia ravage my family.

Incorporating fabric onto my canvases is a direct homage to my ailing mother. She made clothes her entire life, and it is something I most associate with her. This process of creating in fabric is familiar and comforting to me as she is reaching the end of her battle with dementia. It changed my creative process from solely working through grief into a celebratory recollection of her past active life.

This collection of paintings invites you to consider aging. Witnessing someone in the late stages of decline forces you to confront your own aging. The gaze of these subjects hopefully invites consideration of your life, and others, while encouraging empathy to all elders.