Judy Kensley McKie
Nov 8 – Dec 14 at Gallery NAGA
2019 concludes with a flourish. The most celebrated maker in this region in the thirty-five years of the contemporary studio furniture movement, Judy Kensley McKie, presents a large and varied exhibition of new work in carved and painted wood and editioned work in bronze.
McKie blurs the line between utilitarian furniture and sculpture and successfully blends the two as she creates, in effect, furniture as art. Demonstrating her comfort and skill in several mediums, the show at Gallery NAGA is comprised of large and impressive works including tables, chests, vases, wall hung mirrors and more. Widely recognized as a pivotal figure in her field, Judy Kensley McKie has created a body of work that feels both familiar and fresh.
Monkeys have appeared in McKie’s work before, but never so lyrically as in her new Monkey Table. Two monkeys, back to back, tails curling around each other, hold a piece of glass aloft, elbows resting on their knees. Their faces are tender, but their stance and presence is positively regal.
Another bronze piece, Swan Side Table, mates two graceful swans, beak to beak, their feathered wings outstretched. McKie often uses some variation of brown or green patinas in her bronze work, but the swans appear as if they are stone, the patina a warm, dappled gray.
Some of the work has a distinct nod to folk art as well as her interest in flora. The Flower Coffee Table and Flower Cabinet feature large, carved blooms in greens and yellows in the basswood she loves to carve. Two bronze vessels are wrapped with ferns and leaves reminding us of her drawing prowess. They are quieter than her animal forms but beautiful in their lines.
In an essay for the exhibition catalog, furniture maker and friend of McKie’s, Michael Hurwitz, writes tenderly about Judy’s career and their friendship.
Perhaps the most poignant quality that I’ve come to appreciate in Judy’s work is that every lovingly made object that comes from her hands presents itself to the world outside her studio as a gift. This generous spirit, which is consistent with her nature, is palpable in all her work from the simplest of drawings to the most complex bronzes. These offerings of hers are being made toward us with outstretched arms, with the pure instinct of one who knows that if feels good to give. Allow yourselves fully into this world, and enjoy its riches.
Judy Kensley McKie is on exhibition from November 8 through December 14 at Gallery NAGA. A reception for the artist and public will be held on Friday, November 8 from 6 to 8 pm.