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Queenie McKenzie

1930Texas Downs, Australia | 1998Warmun, Australia
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Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Greg Weight

Australian painter.

Born to an Aboriginal mother and an Irish father, Queenie McKenzie succeeded in escaping the assimilation policy of the Australian government, which systematically separated children of mixed parentage with the stated goal of “whitening” them. On several occasions, her mother coated her skin with charcoal to avoid her being taken to an institution. She thus was able to grow up close to her family on Texas Downs Station in the east Kimberly, one of the rare properties manage conjointly by white farmers and Aboriginal families. She worked as a cook for forty years, all the while learning the Gija law with initiated women from the region. In 1974 she moved in with the newly created Warmun community who were developing a new ceremony, dreamed of by an initiated Kukatja from the desert, in which dancers would carry large wooden panels on their shoulders. The cryptic motifs painted on these panels evoked significant topographical elements of the eastern Kimberly and mythical characters. These paintings were quickly adapted onto canvases for the art market and used as educational tools for the bilingual Ngalangangpum School in Warmun.

Co-founder of the school, Q. McKenzie was the first woman to paint on canvas in the early 1980s. From the beginning her paintings stood out with new blends of ochre and natural fixatives giving them a matte texture. In addition to geographical, mythological and historical elements related to colonial massacres, her works contain references to Christian themes borrowed from the Old and New Testaments. In the early 1990s major Australian galleries began collecting her works. After participating in the creation of an artistic cooperative in Warmun and inspiring several generations of artists, Q. McKenzie’s final dream was to see that her family return to her hometown of Texas Downs to take over the farm and build a viable method of development.

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Arnaud Morvan

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Gimiyarriny country, 1990, earth pigments and natural binder on canvas, 50.1 x 70.1 cm, National Gallery of Victoria

Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Hunting for bush tucker, 1987, earth pigments and natural binder on canvasboard, 45.7 x 60.9 cm, National Gallery of Victoria

Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Moses and the Ten Commandments, 1987, earth pigments and natural binder on canvasboard, 45.6 x 55.7 cm, National Gallery of Victoria

Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Purnululu – Bungle Bungle, 1995, prints, etching, aquatint and sugar-lift aquatint, printed in dark blue ink, from one plate, 32.6 x 49 cm, National Gallery of Australia

Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Texas hills, 1994, natural pigments with archival binder on Belgian linen, 203 x 233.5 cm, The Queensland Art Gallery Foundation

Queenie McKenzie — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Queenie McKenzie, Tjimbidmillin, 1997, earth pigments on canvas, 152.2 × 91.4 cm, National Gallery of Victoria

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