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My Story

A Visual Journey

close up progress red tailed black cockatoor

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Growing up in New Zealand's South Island mountains, Tracey developed a keen interest in native flora and fauna. This, along with a love of adventure and the great outdoors, significantly influences her art practice. As a young child she was bewitched by horses, and obsessed with riding and drawing them. At age 10, she accidentally drew Leonardo da Vinci, which sparked a fascination with capturing the likeness of the human face.  A love of portraiture has subsequently spurred her imagination for 40+ years.  


In 2015 she began seriously focussing on portraits. 350 or so commissioned artworks later, the opportunity to closely study anatomy (through both art and a nursing career) has been priceless.

After several years of travel, and living and working overseas, in 2005 she returned home to Nelson to care for her mother who had terminal cancer. At this time, she was struck with an immediacy to follow her dreams, so enrolled in a Bachelor of Visual Art and Design, graduating in 2007.


In 2005 she received a grant from Creative Communities New Zealand, which contributed towards her first solo exhibition - tactile artworks for the visually impaired, held in Nelson. 100% of proceeds were donated to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. In 2007, whilst nursing at Christchurch Maternity Hospital, a series of her illustrations for a breastfeeding booklet was published by the hospital. Her artworks are held in public and private collections in New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Finland, Alaska and Australia.


For the past 25 years she has maintained a career as a registered nurse, whilst art making. The humans she meets through nursing are a significant inspiration. In 2021 her portrait of Dr Marcus Ilton won the people’s choice award at the Royal Darwin Hospital Staff Art Exhibition, and was a finalist in the Portrait of a Senior Territorian Art Award, Darwin, NT, in which she has exhibited four times.


She's attracted to multimedia abstract realism, considering design principles and colour harmony. Her process plays with transparent layers, revealing various elements beneath subjects, which are drawn in the foreground with varying visibility. Her aim is to portray the feeling of a place rather than a direct visual representation. Her latest works have a dreamlike quality that invite the viewer to experience a sense of connection whilst  imagining their own narrative. 


Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design NMIT, Nelson, NZ (2005-2007)
Dip. in Comp. Nursing (1992-1994) Cert IV in Tesol (2001) Cert III in Interior Design (2000)
Dip. in Travel Writing and Photography (1998) Dip. in Advertising Layout and Design (1992)


2023 “Object of Art”, East Arnhem Regional Arts, Nhulunbuy, NT (Winner of Adult 2D section)
2022 East Arnhem Regional Arts Christmas exhibition, Nhulunbuy, NT
2021 Portrait of a Senior Territorian Award, Darwin NT (finalist)
2021 Royal Darwin Hospital Staff Art Exhibition, Darwin NT (people’s choice winner)
2021 Seabreeze Jetty Artspace Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival, Darwin, NT
2013 afterlife2, Darwin Visual Arts Association, Darwin NT
2012 Portrait of a Senior Territorian Art Award, Supreme Court, Darwin NT
2011 Portrait of a Senior Territorian Art Award, Supreme Court, Darwin NT
Off-Cut Show, Don Whyte’s Framing, Darwin NT
2010 Portrait of a Senior Territorian Art Award, Supreme Court, Darwin NT
Art of Survival: I Told... Supreme Court, Darwin NT
2009 Wai Art Awards, Carterton Exhibition Centre, Carterton, NZ
What is a New Zealander?, Fish Bowl Gallery, NMIT, Nelson, NZ
2008 Waitakere Trust Art Awards, Unitec Waitakere Campus, Henderson, NZ
National Women’s Art Exhibition (WAX), The Poverty Bay Club, Gisborne, NZ
Playground ’08, Fish Bowl Gallery, NMIT, Nelson, NZ
Peter Doig Art Awards 2008, Marlborough Art Society, Blenheim, NZ
2007 [in]visible, The Suter – Te Aratai o Whakata, Nelson, NZ
Bent Around the Corner, The Independent, Nelson, NZ
Level 6 BVAD Student Exhibition, Fish Bowl Gallery, NMIT, Nelson, NZ
2006 Art In Windows, Nelson Shop Windows, Nelson Arts Council, NZ
Impressions Arts Council Nelson Art Awards, Gallery 203, Nelson, NZ
Unground, Fish Bowl Gallery, NMIT, Nelson, NZ (short movie and painting)
The Art of Breastfeeding, Refinery Gallery, Nelson, NZ
2005 Imagine – Tactile artworks for the visually impaired (solo exhibition) The Rutherford Hotel, Nelson, NZ
Appropriation, Fish Bowl Gallery, NMIT, Nelson, NZ
2000 Wellington Arts Festival, Wellington, NZ (photography)


2023 Winner of Adult 2D Artwork Category, “Object of Art” East Arnhem Regional Arts Exhibition
2021 People’s Choice Award, Royal Darwin Hospital Staff Art Exhibition
2005 $1000 grant from Creative Communities NZ, Nelson Arts Council to assist with creating solo
exhibition held during “Blind Week”(raising funds and awareness for Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind)
2004 Literary Award – International Cruising Association, Royal Sunset Rally, Kingdom of Tonga
1976-1984 Various singing awards through competitions, Nelson School of Music, NZ.


2022-2023 Vice president East Arnhem Regional Arts, Nhulunbuy NT Australia
1997 to 2019 Mural artist – various projects around NZ and Australia
2015 to present Independent artist – mostly commission-based
2007 Gallery Assistant at Catchment Gallery (dealer gallery) Nelson, NZ
Student representative – Level 7 BVAD class and NMIT Arts and Media Advisory Committee


Arts Access Aotearoa, Arts for all: opening doors to disabled people, 2010, 51.
Tom Hunt, “A Dozen Visions”, Nelson Evening Mail, November 21, 2007, 15.
Glen Heenan, “Accessible Art”, Outlook, Spring 2005, 7-10.
Phil Barnes, “Exhibition – please do touch”, The Leader, October 27, 2005, 12.
Katherine Hoby, “Art for the Senses”, Nelson Evening Mail, October 26, 2005, 17.
Ian Fergusson Interview, Nelson Radio – Newstalk ZB, Nelson, New Zealand, October 26, 2005.
“Creative Communities – monthly small grants scheme”, Arts Council Nelson

Tracey Polglaze Artist

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