Kevin McKenzie

Community Arts Council of Vancouver Gallery
July 14 - August 8


Shield (1998)
mixed media


Kevin McKenzie, a Metis artist of Cree descent, has shown his work in a number of group and juried exhibitions in Vancouver since his graduation from Emily Carr College of Art. His current show is a display of watercolour portraits of native elders and wall-mounted shields made from found materials.

McKenzie used a glazing technique with washes of colour to paint portraits of his modern-day elders posed in tractor caps or sunglasses. The best images have a mysterious, glowing quality as a result of technique; the worst have the stiffness of rendered photographs. Alongside the paintings are "shields" composed of shiny chrome hubcaps embellished with such traditional ornamentations as hair, feathers, thongs or beads.

Although the shields have a Pop-like sensibility, they are intended to be functional, with what McKenzie calls an "immense power...to protect one from physical and metaphysical danger".

Aside from the contemporary appearance, McKenzie actually uses his artwork to extend the ancient native traditions of respect for one's elders and faith in spiritual traditions. It is his act of doing so that makes these images most interesting. The sincerest quality of his work is found in this level of intention, rather than in their execution.

© Mia Johnson