Local woman's little works of art make a big impression
Madeleine Mackenzie’s artwork proves that good things come in small packages.
Madeleine, 81, is a mixed-media folk artist who lives in Winter Springs. For nearly two decades, she has created charming story boxes and sentimental memory boxes that are hand-painted and filled with miniature trinkets and little keepsakes.
Thirty of Madeleine’s clever creations are featured in an exhibit titled Story Boxes: Art with an Attitude at the Doyen Gallery at One Senior Place in Altamonte Springs. Most of her pieces of art are smaller in size than a shoebox or tabletop picture frame.
Much of Madeleine’s uplifting art is reflective of her personal experiences, world views, and love of animals.
“I try to incorporate a lot of what I believe into the boxes or get a point across with humor,” says Madeleine, a retired mental health counselor.
Madeleine handcrafts some of the tiny items she places in the boxes, but many others are treasures she has stumbled across during her travels or found at yard sales.
“I’ve literally been collecting them all my life,” she says.
Madeleine has been enthralled with art since childhood, when she entertained herself by drawing and making paper dolls. The Massachusetts native studied art and psychology at a two-year college in New Jersey and spent a summer at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Alaska and a master’s degree in clinical psychology at the University of Texas.
In addition to her work as a counselor, Madeleine has been a model, an entertainment writer, and a copywriter for ad agencies. Through it all, her love of art remained strong, and she often sold her work on the side. When Madeleine retired in 1999, she was finally able to fully pursue her artistic dreams.
Retirement also allowed Madeleine to travel extensively, which greatly influenced her creative path. Trips to Latin American countries exposed her to nichos, display boxes that have traditionally served as shrines to religious figures and dearly departed loved ones.
“I like anything that’s different,” says Madeleine, who adores the vibrancy of Latin-American folk art. “It’s alive and energizing and can be very imaginative.”
Madeleine was so intrigued by nichos that she began making story boxes and memory boxes of her own. She has shown her work in group shows at local galleries and at outdoor art shows at the Mennello Museum of American Art and Crealde School of Art.
Serious health setbacks prevented Madeleine from participating in shows during the past two years, but she is feeling better these days and is eager to return to the art scene. Madeleine plans to teach workshops this fall on making memory boxes, which she describes as a therapeutic process for the maker. These boxes often pay tribute to beloved family members and pets who have passed away.
Memory boxes don’t have to be serious in nature, though. One of Madeleine’s students made a tongue-in-cheek box in honor of her garden, because everything that she plants dies.
“So, it’s not all tears,” Madeleine says with a smile.
Madeleine’s pieces at the Doyen Gallery are quite diverse in subject matter and color scheme. One amusing box, emblazoned with the words, “My Dentist Said I Needed a Crown,” features a black-and-white kitty wearing a shiny silver tiara.
Another box, dubbed Fashionista, features a skeleton sporting a hat and carrying a handbag. Next to the fancy skeleton is this quote from famed model Kate Moss: ”Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
Other boxes pay homage to the hippie vibe of the 1960s, the New York City skyline, love, and chocolate candy kisses.
The cozy Doyen Gallery is an initiative of the Creative Care Association (CCA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the aging community. Linda Taylor, CCA’s founder, describes Madeleine’s artwork as joyful and highly detailed.
“Each unique piece has so many things to discover; I love to look at them over and over again,” Linda says. “Madeleine is a great example of an artist who continues to defy stereotypes and bring our culture something of value.”
Madeleine’s art will be on display until October 22 and can be viewed from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. The gallery is tucked away inside One Senior Place at 715 Douglas Avenue in Altamonte Springs. Admission is free.
To contact Madeleine about her art or workshops, call 407-699-4242. For details about the gallery, call Linda at 407-949-6733 or visit CreativeCareAssociation.org.
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