The Heroine’s Journey of Kirsty McKenzie

What is the best thing that I love about my work?  

The colour, the freedom, the message, and my obsession/ addiction to it. And that most of it is done solo.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?  

Making art non-stop and being in supreme manic creation mode. When my art is “on” and I’m completely immersed in it, creating prolifically – that is my ultimate happiness, and I feel as if I need nothing more… But it would be the crème de la crème if I also started my day with Kundalini yoga on the beach, followed by a delicious green smoothie …then back to my studio to create ‘til I drop!

What is my greatest fear?  

It’s more of a phobia – but I have an irrational fear of snakes. I fear them more than death. I am not afraid of death. If I were to die tomorrow, I could die happily knowing that I truly evolved in this life, overcame so much, and my story had a true ‘character arc’. This thought came to me after conquering my battle with addiction, and changing my life. Also, to go blind. That would be terrifying.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?  

My self doubt, and inferiority complex. I have a misguided belief that I am not good enough, usually when I’m depressed (I’m bipolar, and when I’m hypomanic I think I’m amazing). Maybe also my perfectionism and control freakism – but those traits come with being a Virgo, and sometimes can be positive.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? 

Yayoi Kusama, Judy Chicago, Wangechi Mutu, Grayson Perry, Nick Cave, Ai Wei Wei, Andrew Logan, Duggie Fields…I could go on…

What is my greatest extravagance?  

I spend most of my money on art supplies, and my health: vitamins & supplements. I also excessively embellish and decorate my home in an extreme fashion. I live in a maximalist art installation, with magical mood lighting in every room!

 On what occasion would I lie?  

Maybe a white lie to make someone feel better, or so they wouldn’t be hurt. Other than that I’m not a good liar. Too much guilt, and I’m too “real”. It pains me to be fake.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?  

When I’m not making art. I’m bipolar, so my changing moods can dictate the creative output, for sure. Also having to promote myself, some of the more ‘business’ aspects of being an artist, and dealing with rejection.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?  

When I first discovered my ‘art mania’ after I got sober, and my life finally started to get amazing. There was this incredible energy in that work, and it was such a potent and powerful time.

If I could, what would I change about myself?  

My anxiety, and self doubt.

What is my greatest achievement in work?  

I scroll through my achievements and accolades, but it would have to be when I stopped being addicted to drugs, and became addicted to making art instead. In 2013, I took myself to rehab, and faced my substance abuse that overshadowed my life for 17 years. Early recovery was rough, riddled with depression and despair. I felt so lost, and unsure of who I was, or if I was even still creative. I started a “vision sketchbook” in hopes of reigniting my creativity. After completing the first one, I started doing more ambitious large-scale drawings and paintings. That year I passionately redirected my focus from fashion & costumes to visual art, and rediscovered myself as an artist. Getting clean has been the most powerful transformative journey, and pivotal moment in my life. It is what led me to my current creative path where I am completely immersed in my work.

Where would I most like to live? 

California. I’ve always dreamed about living on the West coast. I’ve always felt at home there.

What is my most treasured possession?

My art and sketchbooks. I’ve completed 12 sketchbooks in the past 3 years since I got clean, as well as created a massive body of work spanning from paintings, drawing and collages to sound and video installations.

What is my most marked characteristic?

Exuberance, eccentricity, and creativity!

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?  

I just moved to Margate from London, and the beach and the seaside are so magical, and inspirational. If I’m ever feeling stressed or depressed, I hop on my bicycle, and it’s an instant game changer. And if I’m already elated or too excited, it’s an amazing place to just be in the moment, give thanks, and breathe.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

I haven’t been out too much since my move, and I don’t drink – but this Sri Lankan restaurant The Riz is super yummy, and my friends’ place the Margate Arts Club – which is a music, art, and performance venue.

What books influenced my life and how?

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: Tom Robbins, The Robber Bride & The Edible Woman: Margaret Atwood, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest: Ken Kesey, and definitely The Art of Zandra Rhodes ; this was such an inspiring book for me. I discovered it at art college, back when I was a fashion major, and years later I ended up living with and working for her in London!

Who are my favorite writers?

Margaret Atwood, and Tom Robbins.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m totally addicted to music! I’d make an epic playlist filled with intense tracks… really full-on dramatic stuff like Diamanda Galás, and Shirley Bassey… Siouxsie & the Banshees: Night Shift, Funkadelic: Music for my Mother, Nina Hagen: Future is Now, Iggy Pop: Mass Production, Q Lazzarus: Goodbye Horses, Grace Jones: La Vie en Rose… I could on and on, the music would play on for years post-mortem!

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? 

Hmmm, that’s a tough one! I’d say Cat Woman…but she’s a villain 😀 !

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

Vali Myers, Frida Kahlo, and Nina Hagen – all trailblazers who lived their life and art fiercely, originally and authentically. Also my sister Sarah, and all my best girlfriends.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? 

Another tough one, again it’s like choosing music! Probably: The Cockettes, Nowhere: by Gregg Araki, Desperate Living & Female Trouble by John Waters, The Source Family, Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child… (but those I’d recommend multiple viewings!).

What role art plays in my life and work?

Everything. It’s my life. There’s no separation between my work and my life. I live in my studio, and live my art fully. I have chosen to dedicate my life to my art.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?  

Me myself and I. I spend a great deal of time alone, and I love that. But also my sister, and my “RISD friends” (a group of amazing women who I graduated with from the Rhode Island School of Design 12 years ago, and our bonds of friendship and creativity are everlasting!).

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?  

An artist whose work I admire, Hedley Roberts, wants to collaborate with me, where re-work each others’ paintings/ collages. I’m super psyched about that!

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017?

Judy Chicago, Yayoi Kusama, and Faith Ringold.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?  

A video installation entitled Feed Troll with the theme: “in the quest for beauty one becomes a monster”. It’s a webcam view into a twisted teenage bedroom with walls plastered with distorted collaged deformed beauty queens. It deals with mental health, bulimia, and is essentially “the pain and suffering behind a selfie”. In the internet age of social media and webcam culture – what if someone broadcasted the truth, and what was really going on in their life behind the Facebook façade? This video would complete the trilogy of Cat Lady: and Clown Frown: .

I’m also looking forward to continuing my addiction series “Warning Signs”, which is comprised of mixed media collages, sculpture, and installation pieces. I’m also stretching some large canvases right now, to continue my ongoing painting & drawing series The Cat Ladies. Let’s just say I have way too many projects started that need finishing, but I always LOVE starting new things-that excitement is unparalleled!

Where can you see me or my work in 2017?

I’m working on that 😉 . I am applying for some residencies and exhibitions, and would love to have a solo show. I have been more focused on art & print sales. I did the astrology art for Teen Vogue last year, and I hope to do another project for them! For now stay tuned on: & for updates, and & sales! 

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? 

Ummm, my life! This could be the mantra for my everyday existence. When you love what you do, and it’s ‘your everything’ – there is no Quittin’ Time! It never stops. There may be a lull here and there and a dip in my mood…but the passion is always there, and always will be.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

Oh there’s so many – Gabby La La, Fayette Hauser, Angel Eyedealism and Sue Kreitzman!

How can you contact me?

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