Todd McKie has been calling attention to himself with his potent, epigrammatic paintings for over thirty years; and we hear him loud and clear. His work packs a punch with a scintillating narrative and colors that make you gasp. Todd labors over his palette and composition, often layering backgrounds to look like modern day frescos. Without further study, one might miss the deeper meaning. His titles, perhaps, can help.
Todd’s paintings depict, with wry humor, life’s conundrums. Conversely, they amuse us with the seemingly naïve, pleasurable moments that happen – almost accidentally – when we let our guard down. You might get the feeling while looking at these works that something is going to reach out and grab you just when you least expect it. They seem to say, “JUST WAIT.” We might smirk and nod our heads with an “I can relate” kind of simpatico.
A bit on the method:
“My work grows out of looking at other art, from living, and from lots of drawing. The sources include African, pre-Columbian, and Eskimo art, so-called primitive art, untrained artists, children, and people living on sanity’s edge.
The work looks, I hope, spontaneous. However, it’s not easy being simple; that’s where the drawing comes in. The drawings are made with pen or pencil on cheap paper and function as visual notes to myself, notes that can be altered as I move from idea to execution. Because I also make sculpture and prints, the ideas and images used in those other mediums find their way, inevitably, into the paintings. Travel influences my work, too; places I’ve been, people I’ve met, meals that I’ve eaten, all may appear in the paintings.
Despite the preparatory drawings, when I begin a painting I try to have a direct response to what’s happening on the canvas. I try to be open to a happy accident when it comes along. It’s often difficult to know as I work just where a particular image comes from, what it’s about. Months or years later, though, I’ll realize, Oh, yeah, that was about that trip to France when it rained for three weeks, or a truly amazing fresco in a dimly-lit Italian church, or that time I fell and hurt my knee.
I’m not sure what it all means. I try hard to make the most beautiful, mysterious, most colorful, funniest, and truest paintings I can.”
From Cate McQuaid for the Boston Globe:
“Todd McKie’s work, with its stick-figure characters in awkward situations, is easy to chuckle along with, and that makes it easy to pigeonhole. But McKie is a painter to be reckoned with. McKie examines with clear-eyed affection how we strive, only to be tripped up. The colors the artist stirs in his backgrounds often walk the line between florid and lurid, and that adds to the weird blend of happiness and defeat in most of his pictures. If we chuckle, it’s because we see ourselves.”
BFA, Painting, Rhode Island School of Design, 1966
Exhibitions: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, 2012
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
Grants and Awards: Artist in Residence, Sacatar Foundation, Bahia, Brazil, 2011
Artist in Residence, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA
Artist in Residence, Centre d’Art, Marnay-sur-Seine, France
Selected Publications: New York Times, Amy Waldman, Briskly Paced, Tightly Packed
Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid, Pathos in Flatland
Selected Collections: DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Microsoft Corporation, Seattle, WA