Queenie McKenzie Paintings
Queenie McKenzie (1915-1998), born Old Texas Downs, East Kimberley, famous Aboriginal artist.
About Queenie McKenzie
Date of Birth
c.1910 – 16 Nov 1998
Place of Birth
Old Texas Station, East Kimberley, WA
Kimberley, Western Australia
Who was Queenie McKenzie?
Queenie McKenzie (1915- 1998) was the first woman artist to become famous amongst the high profile male artists from the East Kimberley.
Where is Queenie McKenzie from?
Queenie was born on the cattle station at Old Texas Downs. The station is on the Ord River, south-east of Turkey Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Queenie grew up among Gija people and spoke Gija as her first language.
What is known about Queenie McKenzie’s family?
Her mother was a Malgin/Guridji woman and her father a white man. Her father wanted to take her away but her mother said, “You’re not taking my baby away. I keep ‘im here. He’s my baby not yours.”
Later they moved to the new Texas Downs site and police tried to take Queenie away, as was the practice with half-caste children at the time. Local stories tell that Queenie’s mother rubbed her with charcoal so that her light skin would not be noticed. Queenie’s parents must have put up a good argument because their child was not taken.
Was Rover Thomas an artistic influence on Queenie McKenzie?
Queenie was a long-term friend of Rover Thomas, whose work epitomised the style of ochre painting from the Warmun region.
Queenie worked with Rover on Texas Downs station in the early years of their working lives. As a young woman, Queenie McKenzie was cook for the stockmen on the cattle station, and she well remembered a drama where she saved Rover’s life in 1954.
Rover Thomas had fallen from a moving horse and had lost the top of his scalp. Queenie had sewn his scalp back on so well that doctors were amazed that a novice was so skilled. Later Queenie used the story as a subject for some of her paintings.
In later life Queenie McKenzie and her husband moved to the settlement at Warmun in the 1970’s. Queenie did not have children of her own but was surrogate mother to many other children whose mothers were unable to look after them. A strong member of the Warmun community, McKenzie was a councillor and taught Gija language at the school. She had always taken an active part in the ceremonial life, being both a good singer and dancer.
When did Queenie start painting?
Rover Thomas inspired Queenie McKenzie to begin painting. She liked to use natural pigments that included the soft pink and pale violet colours that she made from ochres that she dug from the ground. Queenie stated that these colours appealed to her sense of beauty.
How is Queenie McKenzie regarded in the art world?
Queenie McKenzie has been exhibited widely and her works are represented in major collections including the Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of Western Australia, and the Berndt Museum of Anthropology (University of Western Australia). Towards the close of her life Queenie McKenzie was declared a State Living Treasure for her unique contribution to the arts and culture and the teaching of the Gija language. A few works by Queenie McKenzie is available from Japingka Gallery.
Aboriginal Art Status
Highly collectable artist
Awards & Recognition
2000 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
1998 State Living Treasures Award, Government of Western Australia: For Queenie’s unique contribution to the arts and culture and the teaching of the Gija language.
1997 Queenie was honoured by being chosen, with eight other Australian artists, to create prints to commemorate the Olympic Games in Sydney
Australian National University, Canberra
Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
Kaplan and Levi Collection, Seattle
Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Shepparton Art Museum, Shepparton VIC
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland
Selected Solo Exhibition
2019 Dazzling Diamonds, Art Mob, Hobart
Selected Group Exhibitions
1991 Art Gallery of New South Wales (touring)
1991, 1992, 1993 1998 Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin
1992, 1994, 1996, 1997 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1994, 1998 Old Parliament House, Canberra
1994 1996 Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia
1996, 1997 William Mora Gallery, Melbourne
1997 Songlines Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA
1999 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USA
1999 Myer Gantner Collection, USA
2000 Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
2010 Desert Country, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
2019 International Women’s Day, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage Reconciliation Week, Art Mob, Hobart
2019 Dazzling Diamonds, Art Mob, Hobart
2020 From Little Things Big Things Grow, Kluge-Ruhe Collection, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA
2020 Top 20 Exhibition, Art Mob, Hobart
2021 Rover Thomas and Kimberley Ochre Painters, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2021 Of the Land, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2021 We Choose to Challenge, Coo-ee Fine Art Gallery, Sydney
2022 Top 20 2022, Art Mob, Hobart