Carl McKenzie


McKenzie who practiced traditional whittling for many years, became one of the best-known self-taught Kentucky artists of the twentieth century. His importance lies in his vividimagery and his range of subjects, which bridged traditional and contemporary concerns. Born and raised near Campton, Kentucky, McKenzie worked in theKentucky coalfields, and later drove a lumber truck until retiring in 1970. For years, he carved traditional whimsies, most of which he gave away, but his subject matter broadened after 1970, when his carvings became sought-after and were included in exhibits of regional folk art. By the mid-1980s, McKenzie was known nationallyfor his carvings portraying biblical stories in complex assemblages, including the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, and the Devil Family. He also carved figures fromlegend and life; simple, cut-out birds; and an extensive series of human figures with similar faces whose identity relates to their work: a nurse, a housecleaner, a hunter, amusician, and a topless waitress are part of this series of works. McKenzie used felt-tipped markers to decorate his early figures; on his later works he generouslyapplied brightly colored gloss paints that often ran together.