By Penelope Smart, Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Artist: Ruth Tye McKenzie Title: Me Date: Not dated Medium: Acrylic on canvas Size: 61 × 91 cm Collection of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, purchased in 2011 It’s with deep sadness that the Thunder Bay Art Gallery says goodbye to local artist Ruth Tye McKenzie, 94, who passed away on January 31, 2023. Ruth was a vibrant artist and a beloved member of the local art community. In a popular self-portrait titled Me, we see Ruth cross country skiing, a favourite activity which she pursued into her late 80s. Holding ski poles in a sunny spot on the trail, she dons a bright red traditional Finnish hat, which she wore every winter since 1976 (“I had three versions of the same hat,” she said). You might call this painting an unfiltered selfie, as Ruth offers a candid, slightly crooked smile as she gazes back at the viewer. Ruth loved the natural environment of northern Ontario. She was known for her expressive and spirited paintings and etchings of shorelines, rock cuts, and trees. She also had a talent for figure drawing and worked on series that combined nude and landscapes, known as “nudescapes.” “I’ve lived a charmed life,” she told the gallery in 2016. “It’s been really, really nice to be able to do what you love to do.” Ruth Tye McKenzie was born and raised in Edmonton. She studied art at the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Ontario College of Art, where she studied under of Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson. Upon moving to Thunder Bay for the second time in 1976, she joined the Lakehead Visual Arts Club and subsequently opened the Painted Turtle Art Shop in 1982. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th Annual Thunder Bay Arts and Heritage Awards Ceremony in recognition of her continuous contribution to the regional arts community. The Thunder Bay Art Gallery will present a selection of Ruth’s work in May.