28 SEP 16 | abstract realism

white walls

Today I get to brag about a dear friend’s new artwork! Sarah McKenzie is a Boulder-based artist and her latest body of work, White Walls, is on view at David B Smith Gallery through October 8th. Sarah’s work is particularly relevant to a WORKSHOP8 blog because her paintings explore architectural space, turning it from a volume to be inhabited into a 2-D object to be considered as painterly expression.

You can read more about the work and show in my favorite local magazine, Modern In Denver.

Check out the painting below, Exit/Sign, in which Sarah prominently displays the red exit sign juxtaposed with the red art hung on the walls. What’s funny to me is that I typically try to crop out the exit signs in our architectural photography, but here it gets top billing.


Exit/Sign (Roberts & Tilton with James Hayward, 2015)
2016, 24″ X 32″, oil and acrylic on canvas

Black Bench (MCA Denver with Paul Sietsema, 2014)
2016, 24″ X 24″, oil and acrylic on canvas


Landscape 1 (Danese Corey with Dozier Bell, 2014)
2015, 48″ X 48″, oil and acrylic on canvas

If you love these White Wall paintings as much as I do, you can go and hear Sarah talk about them on October 5th at 6:30 at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver.

previous work

You may remember me bragging about Sarah in March 2014 when she had a show called Transitional featuring paintings of construction sites. Sarah has been painting transitional architecture for more than a decade. Previous paintings focused on abandoned houses, construction sites, windows, thresholds, and doorways. Emphasizing geometry, pattern, and surface, Sarah’s paintings hover in a zone between stark realism and abstraction.


2013, 30″ X 30″, oil and acrylic on canvas


Black Box
2010, 60″ X 60″, oil and acrylic on canvas


Aerial 31
2001, 66″ X 72″, oil on canvas
Joseph and I are lucky enough to have a painting similar to this hanging in our bedroom.

about Sarah

Sarah’s work has been exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Yale School of Architecture, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Aspen Art Museum and at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. She recently completed a residency at Ucross Foundation (Clearmont, WY) and she received a Colombel-Soros Printmaking Edition Award and Residency at Zygote Press in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012 McKenzie received a Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant. Her paintings have been featured in Art in America, The New York Times, The Denver Post, The Huffington Post, Dwell magazine, and New American Paintings. McKenzie received her MFA in 1998 from the University of Michigan, and her BA in Film Studies from Yale.


left: portrait of Sarah McKenzie by her husband Nico Toutenhoofd
right: Assembly
2016, 14″ X 16.5″, Xanté print on paper
completed while in residence at the Zygote Press in Cleveland

All images used by permission of Sarah McKenzie.



One of my paintings from the “Whatta Man” series is currently included in the A History of Visual Arts in Boulder exhibition.

If you are feeling particularly altruistic today, please consider donating to Sarah’s husband, Nico Toutenhoofd’s, GoFundMe campaign to raise funds a new ultrasound software that can help save pregnant Nepalese women.

Brandy LeMae, Creative Director & CEO
28 September 2016