With a cult following in San Fransisco and no shortage of press, Phillipino born, Autistic artist John Patrick McKenzie is fast becoming renown in the art world as a rising star. For the past 14 years, 40 year old McKenzie has been making his visual poetry at Creativity Explored, a nonprofit arts centre in San Francisco for mentally disabled adults. He is the centre’s biggest seller but doesn’t seem to know it or care. After Michael Stipe of R.E.M recently bought several of his works, McKenzie modestly quoted in this exchange “Do you want to be famous? No. Yes. No. Do you want money? No. Why not? Because money is hard to get.” When he writes with a fat Sharpie, his lettering looks bold and syncopated. When he switches to a finepoint Sharpie, it is spidery and wistful. He has been known to write in chalk and crayon, but does not prefer them. He always fills in the letters.
Bonnie Grossman, of Boston's Grossman Gallery discovered McKenzie on a scouting expedition to California. She now shows McKenzie in her gallery, which specializes in outsider art. Though dealers and collectors hotly debate the category, outsider art is generally defined as the work of an artist who is "outside" the traditional art world because of mental illness, physical isolation, or lack of formal artistic training. An outsider artist does not see him or herself as an outsider artist, and in fact usually doesn't see him or herself as an artist at all, which makes for pretension-free art that feels fresh, spontaneous, and often disturbing. Monster Children is holding a solo exhibition of John Patrick McKenzie’s work from 11th September – 2nd October 2008, to coincide with the Without Borders – Outsider Art In An Antipodean Context exhibition, being held at the Campbelltown Art Centre.
Monster Children Gallery is located at 20 Burton Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010