An Interview with Sandy Craig McKenzie
by David Kaufman
Sandy began her adventure as a full-time artist in June 2015 when she retired after 36 years as a Professor of Law At the University of Kansas.
She took a serious interest in art in 1998 as a form of therapy. She sought help for depression, and her therapist recommended that she consider a painting group. The group’s rules were simple: you paint in silence for one and a half hours without judging yourself for what comes out. The activity itself was the point of the group, and nobody was judged on the quality or theme of their artwork. She found this approach to be a good fit. She learned to trust herself, to just “let it happen,” and to “be fine” with what she created in this new medium. The inward focus in the process of artistic creation can lead to “unacknowledged, unidentified, and sometimes unwelcome truths.”
Sandy continued to paint after the group ended. She had her first exhibit in 2003 and joined the Lawrence Art Walk in 2006. She works with several media, including watercolor, acrylic ink, and colored pencil drawings on materials as diverse as Thai banana paper and amate bark paper. Sandy focuses on the process of painting. She does not work from sketches or photographs, and, when she sits down to paint, she has no idea what will emerge from the depths of her conscience. She lets her paintbrush tell the story, and eventually she discovers “what the painting wants to look like.” Then she can focus more on the colors and details.
One of Sandy’s favorite toys as a child was a wooden jigsaw puzzle map. She loved the details and the symbols of maps. She still likes order, details, and symbols, and these come through in her art. For example, one idea she worked on was a Puzzle Map. The puzzle is 12 inches square and consists of nine four-inch squares that are interchangeable and allows for many different configurations. It is a form of interactive art that she says “makes an interesting coffee table activity.” She also worked on a series of illustrations for the String Theory 2013 Exhibit at the Lawrence Art Center. Each illustration has a title which is an anagram of “String Theory;” for example, “Trysting Hero,” features the outline of a human face and a sub sandwich.
Sandy recommends art as a viable form of therapy and healing: just get some watercolor paint or colored pencils and try it. She says the goal is to just “let it happen” and have fun with it, and, in the process, learn to trust yourself.
Sandy’s art features paintings, monoprints, cards, and map puzzles, several of which will be featured at the Lawrence Art Walk.