Soma #1

Oil and collage on wood panel.


17.5″ x 16″

Retail Value: $2,000

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Catherine Mackey paints to convey the unexpected moments of urban beauty discovered in the architecture and artifacts of manufacture and distribution found at a city’s edge: warehouses, factories, piers, and construction sites.

The urban environment reveals unexpected treasure at all scales: the macro—bird’s-eye views of Manhattan roofs revealing compositional patterns and texture; the architectural—the modular tapestry of passing office buildings from a train window; the interior—the empty space within a building telling its history through the scars of blocked windows, absent staircases, and faded signage; and the artifact—wooden pallets, wheel hubs, and air tanks.

The seam running through all her work is unintended, un-designed beauty: the juxtaposition of roofing materials, air-conditioning units and water towers; a steel sink in an old hospital, rust piercing the enamel; a shaft of sunlight through a grimy window hitting an empty paint pot.

When exploring buildings, whether occupied or abandoned, Catherine often discovers spaces which have a powerful feeling of loneliness which comes not from emptiness but from an absence suggested by something recently left behind: a chair in a railway station; a letter from someone’s aunt on the floor of an empty dormitory; a traffic cone. But the people are gone now and all is quiet.

Her work always begins with a random collage of street posters and signage covering the panel before any paint is applied. This layered process suggests the presence of an underlying “story” and conveys age, decay, and the visual chaos often found in the neighborhoods she explores. Sometimes the posters shout for attention and sometimes they whisper and wait to be discovered. This process of discovery re-creates her experiences wandering the city; it will hopefully encourage viewers to take a fresh look at their streets and to uncover their own unexpected delights.


© UCSF Alliance Health Project