Christie's would like to thank Bebe Johnson for her assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.
Judy Kensley McKie (B. 1944) is justifiably recognized as one of America’s greatest studio furniture designers. Until relatively recently, McKie’s furniture was mostly unknwn to collectors of this genre. However, recognition of her work has grown significantly in the last ten years, inviting comparison, both from an aesthetic as well as a technical viewpoint, to the furniture of her celebrated contemporaries, George Nakashima, Wendell Castle and Sam Maloof. A multi-talented designer, McKie works in bronze as well as in wood, creating hybrid furniture sculpture in the form of imaginative animals that can be viewed as the American descendants of the sheep, rhinos and cats by the design icons, Les Lalannes. The daughter of two graphic artists, McKie, as a young child, frequently assisted her father, an amateur woodworker, in building furniture for their home. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1966 and accepted a job as a graphic designer. McKie’s life changed dramatically after she made a table as a gift for her husband Todd and soon began creating additional pieces for admiring friends. This proved to be the catalyst for a phenomenal career that has led to numerous awards, including a Craftsman Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980 and The Furniture Society’s Award of Distinction in 2005.
McKie’s flair and craftsmanship are unrivalled. She developed a highly personalized style grounded in the design ethics of Eskimo, Native American and African cultures. Each of her works vividly displays a creativity and sense of whimsy that evokes and communicates a profound emotion on a uniquely instinctual level. The sofa offered here, one of only two examples created, demonstrates the finest qualities of her skill and artistry. Of classic form and proportion, the sofa is formed of two superbly carved lizards, their stylized heads resting on one another’s backs, and the ribbed, sinuous tails forming elegantly looping arms.
McKie’s furniture is functional but should certainly be considered sculpture as well. Her use of imagery imbues each piece with spirit and personality. In addition to numerous private collections, her objects can be found in numerous museums throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.