Jim McKenzie is a Brooklyn born artist who studied visual effects and motion graphics at the prestigious School of Visual Arts in New York City, New York. Jim’s vibrant and beautifully saturated world of plummy characters and fantastic whimsical oddities are but a few ways to describe his creations. Jim pushes his talents and imagination to a new level of utter delightfulness in his new series titled “Lost Magic.” When asked about his new series and his connection to his puggle, Gordo, Jim had this to say:
Your new show at Copro Gallery in California is titled “Lost Magic.” Your sculptures are phenomenal and exhibit an immense amount of detail. I have always felt that this particular type of craftsmanship and talent requires much time and with that time comes many hours of thought. I am certain much thought went into the process of your pieces and the overarching theme of your show. What was it like to construct “Lost Magic” and what does the title represent in correlation to the show’s narrative? There was a lot of thought and feeling behind each individual piece and they all share different emotions. Themes of wonder, entrapment, overwhelmingness, power and making the impossible become possible. It’s a place where an underappreciated raccoon can blossom into a fantastical unicorn, squirrels can fly and dogs can grow into beautiful butterflies. I’m more focused on developing a world of characters opposed to a strict theme for all of my pieces to follow.
Each individual sculpture from “Lost Magic” took months at a time to create. I work five days a week directing animated commercials at Aardman Nathan Love, as well as teaching at School of Visual Arts, so all of my artwork has to be made on the weekends. It’s a tedious journey but I love it. There’s a big illusion on social media that art is created overnight. I actually started one of my pieces, “The Scarecrow,” in 2014 and finally finished it in 2016. So it does take lots of time and a deep focus to pull off a piece at the level I am aiming to achieve.
You have mentioned in past interviews that your world is succumbed by vibrant playful characters interacting with others within their own magical realms. We see your beloved puggle Gordo in many of your pieces. What is it about animals that you find so engaging and does Gordo give you a straight connection to the animal world that allows you create such charming pieces? Animals have no agenda. Any interaction you have with them is completely pure. I feel compelled to capture that feeling, and not for any gallery or art collector but for myself. Gordo has a lot of character and expression in his face. There’s also a level of naive innocence to him that makes for a great piece. He’s a great muse to have around.
In a past interview, you referred to your animated short film “King Killian” and said that it was loosely based on your inner child and your fear of death. I find that people in general have a fear of death. Why do you believe this is? Are you still processing this fear in your new pieces or have you come to merely accept this idea of “death” as part of life’s mysteries? Whether we admit it or not most of us have a hint of fear towards death. It’s only natural. There are a few references towards the matter in my latest work. I think the self portraits give it away. I’ve lost close friends, pets and family members. I was 16 when my mother suddenly passed away overnight. Mortality is such a strange phenomenon and it’s natural for it to be buried in the everyday subconscious. I don’t look of it in a negative way though. I use those experiences to push myself into making the best out of the time I have in this vessel. It’s more of a realization to me. “King Killian” was based around the endless optimistic bliss that the child mind has in contrast to the stark realities of the real world. I think you have to accept death, know it comes faster than you might imagine, and just live a fantastic life. That’s all we can really do.
Jim has honed his talents as a multidisciplinary artist by working on personal projects and as a highly skilled director at the Aardman Nathan Love studio. Jim has created commercial work for such clients as National Geographic, Capital One, and most recently aided in the creation in Xifaxan’s pharmaceutical mascot, Gut Guy. In addition, Jim is working with 3D Retro Toys to create and distribute a new line of vinyl designer figures based off his biggest puggle muse – Gordo. Jim’s debut solo show “Lost Magic” opens at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, California on June 4, 2016. To view more of Jim’s work, visit his website at jimmckenzie.net.