Leslie Lovell, Savannah GA

Carl McKenzie (1905–1998)  Self-Taught/Folk Art

Carl McKenzie was born near Pine Ridge in Wolfe County Kentucky. He carved throughout his life, producing numerous utilitarian and decorative items, such as walking sticks and letter openers. McKenzie began carving in earnest after retiring from his job as a truck driver for a lumber company, and his sculpture soon became familiar around the country.

McKenzie’s work is diverse and challenging. He is well known for his dramatic Biblical tableaux, particularly for various versions of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark. His Devil Family sculptures are especially challenging and ambiguous. McKenzie is also known for the individual female figures which portray women in a variety working roles - nurses, cleaning ladies and waitresses, particularly several who are topless and who carry carved order pads for dives such as the “Greasy Spoon.”

He made his own brushes from split twigs and then covered his carvings with thick layers of bright paint applied in polka dots or splotches of red, green, yellow and black.

After suffering a stroke in 1992 he spent his last years in a nursing home before passing in 1998.

We would without hesitation say that Carl McKenize is one of our favorite self-taught artists from Kentucky. Inspired by Edgar Tolson of the Campton school of Appalachian wood carvers, we think his style was uniquely his own and evolved over time. The characters or personalities of his figures translated, whether he was carving Adam & Eve, one of his topless waitresses, a postman, or a nurse. His technique and materials use was resourceful, he showed further innovation with his use of split or feathered twigs as paint brushes.” — IntuOutsiderArt