Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Art House

In the Studio with Michael McKenzie



Michael McKenzie, far right, and his staff pose in front of his silkscreen studio and art bus museum-on-wheels at his Katonah compound, which he says was designed “like a giant sculpture.”

Photos by Rana Faure

Two rough-hewn stone pillars and a bright red peace sign greet visitors at the entrance of Michael McKenzie’s Katonah compound, a woodland property that houses several bygone buildings and barns he has been restoring since purchasing the place in 2008. The juxtaposition of classic and contemporary, antique and au courant, illustrates the structures where McKenzie lives, works, and brings contemporary art visions to life.

“I’m the average guy gone wild,” says McKenzie in his silkscreen studio, where multicolored paint splatters carpet the wood floor. And how. His American Image Atelier is a production facility that has churned out editions for such artists as Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Paschke, Frank Stella, Donald Sultan, and Tom Wesselmann, among others. The workspace, like a museum exhibition unto itself, spills over with work by Warhol, Indiana, Red Grooms, and Keith Haring.

McKenzie admits that he didn’t set out to produce masterworks of contemporary art. As a young man, he studied creative writing in the 70s under the tutelage of several Pulitzer Prize winners. He took up journalism under the mentorship of Truman Capote and interviewed and photographed a range of high-profile personalities, including Tennessee Williams, Rudolf Nureyev, Lou Reed, Deborah Harry, Mohammed Ali, Michael Jordan, John Belushi, and Joan Rivers. While still in school, he wrote his first book, on the television show “Saturday Night Live.” He followed that up with books on Madonna (Lucky Star) and Billy Joel (Billy Joel: Piano Man). His books have collectively sold more than one million copies.

The Manhattan native got into photography on a bet. Once he put a portfolio together, McKenzie garnered assignments from The Village Voice and SoHo News. Eventually, he photographed for Time, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and countless album covers. He started taking his photos to art galleries and showing them on consignment. People started buying.

“It wasn’t the worst possible life,” he says. “Anyone I wanted to meet, I met. … I was 22, and everyone wanted to know, who is this maniac?”

Everything changed, though, the day Andy Warhol came to see him in his studio.

“I had worked with Warhol for many moons,” says McKenzie. “I got to be friends—in so far as anyone could be—with Andy and most of his staff.”

McKenzie had been experimenting with oil painting on top of black and white photography. Warhol, looking around his studio, “kept ragging on my process,” says McKenzie. “I was trying to figure out how to make photography bigger and more painterly.” Warhol suggested silkscreening and acrylics. 

The next day, McKenzie called everyone he knew to get screens and inks, and stayed up all night printing on anything and everything. “I’ve been doing it ever since,” he says. “And as I started getting better at it, artists started asking me to print their work.”

Silkscreening began to eat up more and more space of his Manhattan studio, leading him, eventually, to his current location in Katonah.

Today, as always, he’s working on several projects at once: Robert Indiana HOPE sculptures in glass with Lalique; several art books, including Andy Warhol and His Friends; a “Word Art” show opening at the The Baker Museum in Naples, Florida, in February, and then traveling the US and Europe. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for 30 years,” he says. 

He is also putting the finishing touches on a restored barn residence for visiting artists, complete with a private gallery space. “Bedford’s version of a Tribeca penthouse,” he says. 

With Campbell’s Soup-can, red shingles and decorative sliding doors, the building combines antique elements with an open, window-filled, white-walled gallery and living space. In all his renovations, he has kept the words of his friend, the late Philip Johnson, in mind: “Make sure all the buildings talk to each other with light,” McKenzie quoted Johnson as advising him.

The first resident scheduled is contemporary artist Nancy Dwyer. “We think she is more important than the status she has, and we think we can help her achieve,” says McKenzie. “My main goal is to have my own art and writing get out, but on the other hand, to show who’s who in the game.”

Most of all, he’s having fun. “I like what I do,” he says. “I’ve worked with a lot of geniuses. Hopefully some of it has sunk in.”

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

             

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Listen Up

The local, live-music scene is thriving

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2018

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Westchester Community is in need of more than 40 foster homes to provide the county’s most vulnerable children with housing in a safe and stable environment. For more information and to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Department of Social Services
112 E Post Road
White Plains, NY  10601
View map »


Sponsor: United Way of Westchester and Putnam
Telephone: (914) 997-6700
Contact Name: Toyae Liverpool
Website »

More information

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Stamford EMS is offering a new Bleeding Control Basics course that teaches how to stop bleeding until medical help can arrive. Developed in response to mass casualty incidents throughout the...

Cost: $25

Where:
Stamford EMS
684 Long Ridge Road
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: Stamford EMS
Telephone: 203-968-1118
Contact Name: Jessica Anderson
Website »

More information

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

(Snow date: February 10) The Connecticut State Library, in partnership with the Bruce Museum, will hold a Digitization Day to record and digitize the WWI stories and artifacts of...

Cost: Free for participating families

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018 The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided...

Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags