Paris 1951 - 1956
After graduating from the Corcoran art school in Washington, D.C., in 1951, McKay relocated to Paris and enrolled in Ecole Fernand Léger. During this time, McKay produced a series of canvases inspired by Léger cubistic style. These proved to be very successful and were exhibited in several galleries in America. Her time in Paris also brought about McKay’s marriage to Thomas Barnett, a fellow Corcoran graduate and Léger student. Soon after, Barnett began painting under the name Thomas Mather. He later dropped the pseudonym. McKay and Barnett had a son while in Paris. They named him André.
After graduating from Ecole Fernand Léger, McKay began experimenting with abstract imagery: a direct influence of her newfound mentor, the French art critic Michel Tapié. Tapié’s involvement and promotion of the Japanese “Gutai” art group shaped McKay’s approach to her own art, as the “Informel” art movement began in France. McKay’s small studies were developed into successful canvases, one of which was included in the 1958 Osaka International Festival, in Japan. Tapié convinced New York gallery owner Martha Jackson to offer McKay a gallery contract, and he encouraged his protégé to relocate to New York City. After McKay and her husband arrived on the New York art scene, Barnett signed a contractual agreement with the Jackson gallery as well.
New York 1956 - 1961
McKay came to Brooklyn from France and later moved to a West Village studio apartment on Waverly Street. She participated in a number of group shows at the Martha Jackson Gallery and was preparing for a one-woman show when an argument arose over the curating of the exhibit. This led to the severing of the gallery’s agreement with McKay. Barnett suffered the same fate with his contract. The setback did not last long, and McKay went back to work producing large canvases, taking her abstract technique to a bigger scale. This body of work, still in its early development, landed McKay a one-woman show with the Alan Stone Gallery in 1961. Sad to relate, McKay attempted suicide before the opening of the exhibit and was subsequently hospitalized for bipolar disorder. The show never came about. She along with her husband and son relocated to Maryland.
Maryland 1961 - 2008
McKay’s recovery and her eventual divorce from Barnett led to a resurgence of creativity. She remained steadfast in her commitment to abstract expressionism and produced an impressive body of work in the mid- to late 1970s. Several exhibits of her work in Washington, D.C. gave hope that she could rekindle the promising past. But the art world had changed, and her career stalled. She succumbed to mental illness and died in 1983. Her art was her legacy. The site’s bio page lists her accomplishments.
"Peasant Women" 1955
"Once Upon a Time" 1958
"Ahaz" 48" x 43" 1958
"Untitled" 48" x 38" 1974
"Untitled" 40" x 32" 1974