For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council revisits previously featured visual artist and author Brenda McKenzie. Since 1971, she has lived in Pinawa. She said, “But, before that, as an ‘army brat,’ I lived in various places.”
Her favourite medium includes acrylics, water colour, and occasionally, pen and ink. When asked about what inspires her art work, she said, “Colour is my first inspiration, and then how light defines an object or creates a mood.”
In the 1960’s, she took lessons at Winnipeg Art Gallery, and, in junior high, she participated in an art club with her teacher John Esler. At the University of Manitoba, she studied in the Faculty of Interior Design, learning from H. Adaskin and other staff. She said, “It was an intensive education in design of images, display, and colour.”
In Pinawa, she worked for five decades with well-known artist and high school art teacher, Vivian Thomson. When Thomson retired, McKenzie took over her classes. Prior to being hired for this fulltime art specialist position, she worked, for more than thirty years, as a substitute teacher in Pinawa schools. She also taught private art lessons for both adults and children. During the quarantine, she’s doing Skype art classes with two girls in England.
McKenzie’s work been exhibited at Crea8ery Gallery in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, Selkirk’s Fox Gallery, Pinawa’s Art 211 Gallery, and numerous Juried Art Exhibitions in the Winnipeg River district, and has been shown and sold at markets in Beausejour and Lac du Bonnet. Her photography, oil painting, and acrylic painting have won awards at Juried Art Exhibitions in Pinawa, Las du Bonnet, and Beausejour. Last summer, WRAC included her “Aurora Path” paddle painting in their popular art auction.
Given all her years of teaching and creating, it’s no surprise McKenzie has become involved in local arts projects, including ART 211 Gallery, Juried (and Judged) Art Exhibitions, and Winnipeg River Arts Council. After years as a board member, she now serves as WRAC president and contributes countless volunteer hours to the council’s stated mission of “connecting people through art.”
Like many local artists, her work reflects the natural surroundings of Eastman, in all four seasons. But she prefers the winter light to harsher summer sun and shadows.
She said, “My ultimate work is portraiture – both animals and humans.” In 2017, McKenzie’s portrait of her mother-in-law won a prize at Lac du Bonnet Juried Art Exhibition. This picture portrays the older woman gazing into a past that has been clouded by Alzheimer’s.
Related to this topic, McKenzie’s first book, Loving You, was a memoir about finding help for her mother-in-law’s dementia. It sold independently across Canada and throughout Manitoba. She has just finished her second book, over 350 pages long, and she awaits reviews from her critics/readers.
McKenzie’s favourite art quote comes from Pablo Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”