Catherine Mackey

Catherine MackeyMackey’s painting studio is in a converted mayonnaise factory at the edge of the Mission district in San Francisco. The neighborhood, with its old industrial buildings, and the city itself have inspired much of her work over the last decade as have the other cities to which she regularly travels: London and New York. Before becoming a painter Mackey worked in the architectural world in the UK, after achieving a First Class (Honors) degree in Interior Architecture from Manchester University. She spent 14 years practicing and teaching in London before she moved to San Francisco in 1996. Her relocation coincided with her decision to develop her interest in architectural and urban environments within a more visual medium. In her recent solo shows, Patterns in the City (New York, 2013) and Quiet Spaces (Laguna Beach CA, 2015), Mackey explored unplanned patterns and textures found in the urban environment, and spaces within industrial buildings.
She has been featured in many group shows and several museum shows including The Landscape Revealed (Saint Mary’s College Art Museum CA); Chain Reaction (De Saisset Art Museum, Santa Clara University, CA); and Urbanscapes (Firehouse Arts Center, Pleasanton CA). Her work is now being represented by galleries in San Francisco, Southern California, and New York, and her paintings can be found in private collections around the world, from Australia, Dubai and Beijing to Europe and the UK. In the USCatherine Mackey her paintings can also be found in corporate collections and in US Government offices. Mackey is also an avid traveler and takes her sketchbook wherever she goes. A travel scholarship award took her to India, and she can regularly be found drawing in places as disparate as a Mexican graveyard, a Moroccan livestock market, or a Croatian monastery. Her drawings often lead to studio paintings and always inform her use of pattern and color in her work. Mackey continues to find inspiration in the urban environment and is constantly experimenting with new ways of seeing and communicating the delights which she finds there.
I paint to convey the unexpected moments of urban beauty discovered in the architecture and artifacts of manufacture and distribution found at a city’s edge: warehouses, factories, piers, and construction sites. The urban environment reveals unexpected treasure at all scales: the macro – bird’s-eye views of Manhattan roofs revealing compositional patterns and texture; the architectural – the modular tapestry of passing office buildings from a train window; the interior – the empty space within a building telling its Catherine Mackeyhistory through the scars of blocked windows, absent staircases, and faded signage; and the artifact – wooden pallets, wheel hubs, and air tanks. The seam running through all my work is unintended, un-designed beauty: the juxtaposition of roofing materials, air-conditioning units and water towers; a steel sink in an old hospital, rust piercing the enamel; a shaft of sunlight through a grimy window hitting an empty paint pot. When exploring buildings, whether occupied or abandoned, I often discover spaces which have a powerful feeling of loneliness which comes not from emptiness but from an absence suggested by something recently left behind: a chair in a railway station; a letter from someone’s aunt on the floor of an empty dormitory; a traffic cone. But the people are gone now and all is quiet. My work always begins with a random collage of street posters and signage covering the panel before any paint is applied. This layered process suggests the presence of an underlying “story” and conveys age, decay, and the visual chaos often found in the neighborhoods I explore. Sometimes the posters shout for attention and sometimes they whisper and wait to be discovered. This process of discovery re-creates my experiences wandering the city; it will hopefully encourage viewers to take a fresh look at their streets and to uncover their own unexpected delights.

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