Field Collected, Pensioner Unit Warmun Community, WA
Neil McLeod Fine Art, Vic
Private Collection, Vic
Signed by artist verso with aspects of the story annotated
“3 wise men on camels visiting the god man Jesus in the bed from grass.
“Mr Jobst from Broome the Godfather man praying for the baby.
“All this mob looking at the camel men coming with presents.”
Queenie McKenzie was born c.1930 at the Old Texas station on the Ord River in the north west of Western Australia. As a young girl she began her life of cooking for the stockmen, tending and riding horses, and journeying as they drove cattle across the vast pastoral region of the north.
During the 1970s, Queenie, then in her fifties, played a leading role in community affairs and experimented with representational art as an educational tool in the local school. She taught Gija language and cultural traditions as part of the ‘two-way’ education given at the school. Besides helping to maintain ancient knowledge of sacred sites and the Dreaming mythology, it seamlessly paralleled bible stories and provided the young with both a spiritual awareness and an involvement in community activities. She participated in both traditional ceremonies and the Pentecostal gatherings that were held near Frog Hollow about a half hour from Warmun.
Queenie McKenzie earned world wide acclaim with distinct and influential artworks depicting the country of her childhood and early working life around Texas Station, as well as other sites throughout the East Kimberley region. She died in 1998, the year the Warmun art centre was formerly established.
In 1995, the year this work was painted, she worked at the pensioner unit where she lived with Rover Thomas and his wife Rita. Here she painted the majority of her major works for entrepreneurs who visited the community from time to time.
In an interview towards the end of her life she reminded us that the only word she had ever learnt to read and write was her own name, as it was required to sign her paintings. Yet she was, in her lifetime and still to this day, recognised as a spiritual and cultural icon, whose commitment to art has left an indelible impact on Australian history and culture.Share