Shirley MacKenzie Fine Artist and Illustrator
Shirley MacKenzie was born in Halifax Nova Scotia in 1959, and by 1961 she was adopted away from her family of origin.. Adoption played a significant role in Shirley's life, the likes of which she has shared in her book, Orphan Sage, published in 2010.
Leaving Nova Scotia in 1965, Shirley lived and schooled most of her life in Montreal and Ottawa. She studied Arts Plastique in Montreal, and Museum Studies in Ottawa, earning two diplomas. She credits much of her skill to having studied under established Canadian artists such as, Gerald Roach, Raymond Brown, Frieda Baine and Andrew Dukowicz.
Shirley also had the opportunity to work for the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority as curator for two museums, Watson’s Mill, Manotick, and Silversides Tool Museum in Perth. The later took priority, as the structure was ready, while the 2000 artifacts sat waiting on the museum floor. Shirley researched, designed exhibits, and created all graphics for the museum. She also participated in much of its construction. This position lasted five years, and was one that Shirley feels most proud of – being able to combine both art skills and museum standards to this extremely large project, among many other smaller projects.
Studio development became Shirley’s next focus, continuing on with art exhibitions and commissions. She was invited by Saint Catherine School in Metcalfe, Ontario to create an art program for children in grades one to six. This was such a popular class for children that she opened her studio to teach privately on weekends. This position gave her enormous insight to the incredible need there is for art in early education; encouraging children to explore new ideas, take risks, and contribute with their own unique voices.
Today, Shirley’s focus is on developing her skills, experimenting with materials, exhibiting when she can, and enjoying the great fun book illustration can be. A large body of her work was given to museums, through exhibits, advertising, graphics – then to book illustration and private art commissions. All these have shaped the way Shirley creates and views art. She acknowledges that art is not found in one place. It cannot be harnessed and defined by scholars or institutions. It evolves and grows around us without our definitions or recognitions.