Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Mission Theater

I recently visited the newly re-furbished New Mission Theater, now the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, in San Francisco. Built in 1916 and remodeled in the Art Deco style in the 1930’s, it closed down in the 80’s and has been dark ever since. Here’s me in the fabulous lobby on the very fabulous carpet, smiling because I was remembering the last time I was in there – in the dark by myself. But more of that later….

In 1996 I arrived in San Francisco and started to paint. I explored the neighborhoods and was drawn to abandoned buildings with architectural merit and a story to tell. I discovered the New Mission Theater on Mission Street, the entrance shuttered and the 70 ft tall marquee shedding its paint and neon. So I painted the marquis. Each letter had its own canvas and there were eight panels in all. It wasn’t until I placed them together that I realized how tall the piece was. I had just joined a new gallery called Hang (a gallery which I credit with kick-starting my career as a painter) and the director decided to show the painting which was so tall it reached through the lighting grid! It sold within days to a Seattle loft-dweller.

Ten years later in 2008 I had a beautiful studio in the Mission (still have it) and a contact who was friendly with the owner of the building. I had heard rumors that it was going to be knocked down for redevelopment and I was desperate to see what remained of the interior. After several attempts I persuaded the owner to give me access. I didn’t realize that he would let me in, pull down the shutter, and tell me to call him when I wanted to get out. And I didn’t think to take a flashlight.There was minimal lighting in some areas but none in most.
I spent nearly two hours in there by myself and boy was it spooky!  
Every time a truck went by on the street the metal shutter would rattle and the sound would bounce down the lobby, around the auditorium and end up as a rustle just behind me. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest several times. 

The seating had recently been removed from the auditorium, leaving curved lines of circular holes in the concrete floor. There were beautiful details and lots of graffiti. 

Using a cinder block as a portable stool I completed several sketches before the need for a bathroom made me dial for my escape.


From these sketches I worked on some paintings in my studio:

A San Francisco landmark has been saved and is now a great place to watch a movie while having dinner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Small Rooftop Paintings

Open Studio
Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th November
11.00 - 6.00

1890 Bryant St. # 204
San Francisco, CA 94110

Here are some of the bite-sized (12" x 12") rooftop paintings I'll be showing among the larger pieces in my studio this weekend. Don't forget to visit!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quiet Spaces

I will be taking part in a two-person show in Laguna Beach in September. The owners of the gallery - Kelsey Michaels Fine Art - have given me the opportunity to show work which explores spaces, mostly interiors, which have resonated with me for different reasons. Some are energetic (loading docks and construction areas) and some are calm (empty corners of abandoned buildings). The common thread is that they are spaces which generally go unnoticed by their users.

Because I always paint from my own experience (with the help of sketches and photos) each space has a personal story for me and I'd like to share a few of those stories here:

Blue Door

Several years ago, while visiting artists' studios in the American Industrial Building in San Francisco, I got lost while looking for the exit and stumbled upon this loading dock. The light coming through the upper window created a cathedral-like atmosphere and the Orange traffic cone was a jewel sparkling amidst planes of concrete.

Between the Piers

I have walked the length of the Embarcadero in San Francisco many times but only noticed this scene when I was looking for the entrance to the Pilara photography collection in Pier 24.

Passing through a gate between Piers 24 and 26 I found the old rail tracks which used to bring goods into the warehouses from ships on the Bay.The gap between the buildings feels so narrow and intimate that I think this almost counts as an interior.

Sunday at 1890 Bryant St.

The building in which I have my art studio has been under construction for many years, and the works continue. On weekdays there are workers everywhere and it can get pretty noisy. But at weekends everything is still. Late last year I started to go to the building on Sundays and I would walk around looking at the half-finished projects. I've always loved the colors of old plywood and the Green backing on sheetrock so I was in heaven when I discovered an old sofa and a coffee table positioned in a place where I could sketch in undisturbed comfort. 

Old Market

Fes, Morocco, 2012.
Exploring the old Jewish quarter a friend and I found an enormous old produce market which was empty except for a few vegetable stalls. The space was stunning. Sunlight poured through circular lights in domes supported by high arches. It felt almost religious. I wouldn't have been surprised to find banks of votive candles but all I got was a motorbike and some carrots.

Old Barracks (unfinished)

I'm still working on this one in my studio but seeing as I'm in the story mode I thought I'd include it.

Mare Island CA. 2007. Abandoned naval barracks building.

I was in this building with an architect friend. We were the only ones there and the spaces were vast. This long, wide, covered veranda faced West and had been glazed for protection from the winds coming off the bay. What struck me was the echoing emptiness with the wind wailing in the background.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New York Show

Prince @ Broadway (detail). 36" x 48". Oil and mixed media on wood panel
Above Manhattan

If you are in New York this month and would like to see my new work I will be taking part in a three-person show at Stricoff Fine Art in Chelsea.

May 7th - 19th

Stricoff Fine Art
564 W 25th St. New York, NY 10001

Opening Reception: Thursday May 7th. 6-8pm

This new body of work explores the rooftops of Manhattan.  Mackey has made use of Google Earth to explore the city, looking for perfect compositional combinations of form and shadow - a keen eye and careful cropping reveal a luxury of potential abstract paintings.

This work is a continuation of Mackey’s interest in the color and texture found in the urban environment, as presented at her solo show “Patterns in the City” in New York in 2013 (Stricoff Fine Art). Only this time, instead of using her work to remind the viewer of the beauty of things seen every day, she is showing us what remains mostly unseen above street level.

Mackey’s creative process always involves the build-up of several layers of paint and collage before the final image is allowed to emerge. In this new body of work every painting contains fragments of posters appropriated from the streets of Manhattan within the last twelve months.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Open Studio

New York Rooftops - West Coast Preview

My "Rooftop Paintings" are about to be shipped to New York for a show at 
a gallery in Chelsea. It just so happens that this coming weekend my studio 
building is open to the public, with over 40 artists displaying and selling their work .

So... if you can't get to New York in May come to my studio in San Francisco 
for a glass of wine and a preview of the new pieces.

April 18th &19th: Noon - 6.00 pm
Preview evening: Friday April 17th 6.00 - 9.00 pm

1890 BRYANT ST, # 204, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94110

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Yellow Pier. 48" x 60". Oil and mixed media on wood panel.

Recently one of the galleries which represents my work requested that I do a large pier painting for their inventory. I spent three weeks working on the piece and was pleased with the result. So when the gallery told me they couldn't accept it because it was too Yellow I was surprised and disappointed. To be precise, I was told that they found it difficult to sell paintings containing a lot of Yellow.

So, what is it about Yellow?  Many years ago a gallery owner in New York told me “Don’t paint Yellow – it doesn't sell”. Soon afterwards I painted a Yellow piece and it sold – very quickly - so I dismissed the rule. But here it is again.

The problem isn't that the painting has been shown and remains unsold. It’s that the gallery owner, who sells many of my pieces very quickly, is nervous about the color because she assumes that her clients won’t like it. So now her clients won’t get the chance to see it and, consequently, won’t buy it.
I told this story to an artist friend who immediately asked me if I could put a white “wash” over it. That surprised and saddened me. Should I paint what I know will sell easily? Or should I expect my representatives to take a leap of faith and try something slightly different every now and again? It’s that never-ending quandary: Do we allow financial imperative to influence our work? The short term gain (paying the rent!) is good, but in the long run do we put a lid on our careers by compromising?

Fortunately this story has a happy ending: A gallery in Laguna Beach loves the piece and wants to include it in their summer show. So perhaps Yellow is just a little too brash for the subdued palettes of San Francisco and New York but perfectly fine for sunnier Southern California.