By Malcolm Ryder

Gearbox Gallery stands street level in a West Oakland building two stories tall. It has enough space to accommodate the group of artists who form and run it, such that all artists have always at least one work on display. In this scheme, it makes a one-person show on the lower floor as special to the members as it may be to us. The current featured work is testimony to how the gallery, as an organization, highly motivates individual members to freely pour energy into a lot of work. Currently, at this location, gallery member and lifelong swimmer Jamie Treacy has his first solo show, Creatures of Duality.

The first impression that the collection of paintings gives is not of creatures. When you enter the gallery and (almost instantly) stand in the center of the square exhibition space, you are
immediately surrounded by beautiful intricate surfaces. It makes you wonder where to start but also says that you can start anywhere.

Committing to it, I started with noticing that the many hues of green were not like the water of
blue vacations but the real water of oceans and ponds. Places where if you leave something
alone long enough, something else will grow on it. Some of Treacy’s works make this into
outtakes from languid movies, shot perhaps on other discovered planets. But instead, they are from the inner spaces of where we are – waters where Treacy dives, and the imagination.

While not arranged in order this way, the set of paintings offer a progression that sets artificial
structures or manufactured forms against organic, natural ones – but ultimately subordinates
their difference into flattened composed motifs. There’s an implication that Treacy shows us
“found” artificial items and “invented” natural ones, but his use of all-over color and placement of things evaporates that implication as it emphasizes his decisions about what to show.

Another key element in many pictures is the vantage point that he offers. Across the collection, we are sometimes high up looking down, or pointed towards a horizon, or fully immersed in the thick of organisms or being underwater. The points of view inject a narrative dimension by “placing” us in the sensory field of the picture, as if we were Treacy seeing what is shown. It makes us imagine, or ask, what he was doing there. In his statement, the artist speaks of being a “new diver”, struck by the co-presence of opulence and desiccation, and as a queer artist given to making spaces that can hold contrasting experiences.

Treacy’s painting requires a lot of drawing, and while his color work is the pronounced emotional driver, his line work provides most of the “text”. We see not only de facto shapes of things that seem familiar but verge sometimes on science fiction; but we also see “cutaway” views of the usually hidden internals of those things – their fibrous chambers or framework.

Then, for example, while these innards usually are revealed to us when plants meet death or violence, Treacy mainly makes them part of the intricate surface patterning of his canvas. It moves us away from piers and sunken boat hulls, on to a type of imagery that becomes more an abstract fabrication of his visual vocabulary – perhaps more about personal symbology than shared sensation.

This description should not be taken as stating Treacy’s actual intentions or any evolution. All of the works were made during 2022 through 2024 and have the artist’s own evocative titles. But as audiences, we bring a great mix of aesthetic backgrounds, and we look at things both to find out what we have in common with the reality of the work and, separately, with the imagination of the artist. Together they create the dialogue in our own sense of the work.

Creatures of Duality closes at Gearbox Gallery on Saturday, April 20.


Malcolm Ryder, Oakland resident and artist, is a fine arts and commercial photographer and writer with 40 years experience in practice creating, teaching, and critiquing visual art as well as developing and managing arts organizations for visual artists. He is a graduate of Princeton University; a former programming developer and director at the NEA, NYSCA and NYFA; and former board member of arts non-profits in SF and Berkeley. His current art work, exhibiting in shows across the Bay Area since June 2022, is also published online at and at the home site of the multi-year collaborative art project Oaktown, at 


  1. Jamie Treacy at Gearbox Gallery; Courtesy of Gearbox Gallery
  2. Artwork Courtesy of Gearbox Gallery and Jamie Treacy
  3. Installation view of Creatures of Duality; Courtesy of Gearbox Gallery