Judy Kensley Mckie is a leading figure in the American studio furniture movement whose work and career are rightfully considered to be equal to that of other master craftspeople of the 20th century, including Wharton Esherick, Sam Maloof, George Nakashima and Wendell Castle. The daughter of two graphic artists, McKie learned woodworking from her father as a child. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1966 and accepted a job as a graphic designer thereafter. She was however, still intrigued with furniture production and continued to hone her skills in carving and design. These self-taught skills led to an extraordinary career, and her artistry and talent, whether expressed in stone, wood or bronze, are unrivalled. Over time, McKie developed a highly personalized style that was deeply influenced by her fascination with Pre-Columbian, African, Eskimo and Native American visual cultures. Each of her works wonderfully exhibits an imagination that ingeniously blurs the expected norms of form and function. After more than twenty years of working in wood, McKie began casting in bronze after a friend working with a foundry in Berkeley, California, suggested bronze as a new medium for her imagery. McKie described this material transition, “I can do things in metal I couldn’t do in wood. Metal gives a sense of permanence and age.”
The two ‘Jaguar’ benches offered here beautifully display McKie’s talent to combine whimsy with superb craftsmanship. The finely cast creatures, enhanced with a rich, dark brown patina, is normally a fearsome beast in nature. In McKie’s unique interpretation, the jaguars display a curvilinear graphic quality that is both elegant and balanced. These particular two casts were commissioned as part of a larger group of five ‘Jaguar’ benches that resided in a private park in Paris, France.
Judy McKie’s furniture designs are utilitarian but should ultimately be considered as superior works of art. Each of her objects creates a sense of wonder and playfulness, but that should in no way overshadow her incredible skills in any material she decides to employ. In addition to numerous private collections, her works can be found in museums throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.