It’s half past six on a Thursday night and Velo Studio, a small bike shop in the Burbank portion of Toluca Lake, is filling up with local cyclists as an employee sets up live streaming for the Tour de France on a flat-screen monitor.
The pristine shop filled with lightweight, carbon bikes and accessories for serious cyclists has been transformed into a French party space for the night—bottles of wine and champagne sit in a bucket of ice, European hors d'oeuvres create a fanciful display, cycling art that encapsulates the fervor of the sport lines the walls. A short film, The Pillars of French Cycling, is scheduled to play later in the evening, and guests are examining the cycling-themed art for sale. It’s a Mecca for Francophiles and residents who ardently follow the annual race.
Tracy Holmes fits in with this crowd perfectly. The Pasadena-based artist attends the Tour every year, photographing the cyclists as they zip down mountains and navigate narrow streets. Her images become the inspiration for her paintings; aerial snapshots of the race and close-up portraits of individual riders like Lance Armstrong.
Holmes, one of three artists selling their work at Velo Studio’s , wasn’t always ensconced in the cycling world. She had a career in banking and real estate before switching paths at 30 to become an artist, a profession borrowed from her parents. But she didn’t become a cyclist herself until a knee injury forced her to seek another form of exercise besides running and a chiropractor suggested that she try a bike. Shortly after, the gallery that she was working for asked her to do a show on the Tour. She accepted, but the first time she attended the race, she underestimated the ability of the riders. By the time she snapped her first photograph of the cyclists racing up a mountain, she captured their backs. After that, she bought a new camera lens.
Now, a veteran who has attended the last 7 races, Holmes is working on a Hall of Fame project and paintings that feature new cyclists. During our conversation, she is interrupted several times by potential buyers. When asked what her normal clientele is like, she says it’s a mix of men and women buying it for men. And they usually buy it to display in living rooms, she says.
“There’s not a lot of art out there that people can put in their living room that has cycling,” says Holmes.
She mentions paintings that show recreation bicycles with baskets in front of cafes, a stark contrast from her images of muscled riders in spandex.
She is interrupted again, and this time she has to leave; her pieces are selling almost as fast as the athletes she paints.