Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
24 March 2010

Queenie McKenzie (Nakarra)

(c.1930 - 1998)

natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on canvas

91.5 x 121.5 cm

signed verso: QM

$28,000 - 35,000

Warmun Traditional Artists, Turkey Creek
Private collection, Melbourne

This painting is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Warmun Traditional Artists, Turkey Creek

Catalogue text

The paintings of Queenie McKenzie and her close friend Rover Thomas possess a unique style which has given East Kimberley painting its distinctive character. The dotted delineations on vast backgrounds of natural ochre may be understood as symbols and maps that denote important aspects of their country. However, the disclosure of meaning in Aboriginal art is often conditional; stories and sites of significance depicted in tribal land are revealed in ways which are specific to particular Aboriginal groups. Accordingly, the simple elegance in paintings such as My Propa Home (Texas Downs) belies often complex and specific meaning. For example, the large hill is a bush tucker place called 'Budawa'; two black ovals are kangaroos with broken bones that have fallen from the hill; and the rise and fall of the single dotted line in what we might imagine as the foreground signifies the spirit teacher's direction for people to stop walking – to go their own way, or they'll be turned to stone.1

Queenie McKenzie is an important woman of East Kimberley whose life has been both fraught and astonishing. When only a baby, her non-Aboriginal father wanted to take her away but instead, her mother kept her and she spent the next forty years as a stock camp cook on Old Texas Downs Station, south east of Turkey Creek. In the mid 1970s, she went to live with the Warmun Community and witnessed the development of the fledgling artistic community and by the mid 1980s she was painting on canvas using ochres she prepared herself. In her relatively short career as a painter she not only produced a remarkable body of work but was also recognized as a great advocate and mentor for the art of East Kimberley.

1. Warmun Traditional Artists Certificate of Authenticity (cat. QM11).