Judy Kensley McKie Carving the Surface

At Gallery Naga

By: - Apr 27, 2024

Judy Kensley McKie
Carving the Surface
May 3 – June 1, 2024 at Gallery NAGA
The most celebrated maker in this region in the forty years of the contemporary studio furniture movement, Judy Kensley McKie, presents a large and varied exhibition of work in carved and painted wood, editioned work in bronze, and works on paper.  Carving the Surface is a survey (1984 – 2018) of McKie’s masterful carvings throughout her career.
McKie blurs the line between utilitarian furniture and sculpture and successfully blends the two as she creates, in effect, furniture as fine art.  Demonstrating her comfort and skill in several mediums, the show at Gallery NAGA is comprised of large and impressive works including tables, cabinets, vases, wall hung mirrors and more.  Surface carving is the thread that holds the exhibition together; both the wooden work as well as the bronze pieces illustrate her expert facility with carving.
We’re used to thinking about McKie’s work in the context of her furniture as a mix of functionality and dimensionality.  The work in this exhibition goes a step beyond in underscoring McKie’s mastery in balancing sculptural forms with sculpted surfaces.  The integration of these two elements further elevates the impact of her forms.
Rarely do McKie’s freestanding, sculptural forms take the sideline in her design practice—an exception is McKie’s headboards.  Bird Headboard and Gazelle Headboard make up for a lack of a third dimension with their exquisitely detailed tableaus.  Scenes of birds and gazelles frolicking in the landscape create such surface action to make the lack of dimension beside the point. 
McKie’s carving technique on the basswood furniture is highly detailed and confident.  On a surface such as wood, mistakes are not to be made.  McKie’s surety of line, even with the varied texture inherent in wood, are fluid and practiced; this skill has become second nature.
The maquettes for the bronze work go through multiple steps before McKie may begin the surface carving.  They start out as laminated layers of sign foam board from which the forms get carved. Once the forms are created and prepped, McKie then goes into each piece and carves the surface decoration.  In her Owl Vessel, McKie transforms the features of the owl to create an elegant and refined vessel.  The sweep of the owl’s wings, wrapping fully around each side of the vessel, is enlivened by an abstract circular pattern on her front.  The gracefulness McKie creates counteracts the weightiness of the bronze material and the solidity of the vessel.
In addition to the furniture, a collection of prints punctuates the exhibition.  These prints, dating from 1990 – 1991, present an alternative perspective of McKie as a graphic artist and showcase her painterly drawing ability through carved blocks of linoleum and wood.
Judy Kensley McKie: Carving the Surface is on exhibition from May 3 to June 1 at Gallery NAGA.  A reception for the artist and public will be held at the gallery on Saturday, May 4 from 2 – 4pm.
Digital images of the work to be exhibited are available upon request and can be found at








Moose Cabinet / Horse Cabinet
2008   carved and painted basswood   21x21x4"





Gallery NAGA

67 Newbury Street

Boston, MA 02116