Mike McKee - Biography
Mike McKee’s passion for sculpture developed gradually, from an early need to draw, even when other school subjects were vying for his attention. A four-year graduate of New Mexico Military Institute, McKee didn’t go directly into a major in art, primarily because it had not occurred to him that such a major existed. He spent two years in Hawaii before returning to Santa Fe to enroll in the College of Santa Fe. Looking through the course catalog in 2002, McKee realized he could major in sculpture. By 2006 McKee had not only earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, he had also sold the first stone sculpture he had ever exhibited, and had fully awakened to love of stone that propels his work today.
At the start of his sophomore year, McKee became an apprentice at Bill Weaver Studio in Tesuque. Under mentorship of William Weaver, the master sculptor/fabricator who managed Shidoni Foundry for many years, McKee worked on bronzes by famous sculptors from the start. In seven years at the foundry, McKee mastered power-sculpture foundry techniques that also have high applicability to stone sculpture and worked intermittently on his own sculptures in stone.
To carve stone is to be a mineral surgeon, an intuitive designer, and a composer who can transform an amorphous, unyielding, and cold medium into sensuous, complex, enticing works of art. McKee begins by selecting the right stone, favoring honeycomb calcite from Utah, for its bright yellow color, intricate veining, and the high degree of translucence which lends itself so perfectly to his creative ideals. McKee also uses other stones including alabaster, pipestone, fluorite, marble, and onyx, each according to the intrinsic appeal of the raw stone specimen. Each stone chosen has the potential to become a visual, tactile, aesthetic, intellectual and emotionally satisfying object in McKee’s studio.
McKee begins with stones that “tell me where to go artistically.” Throughout the process McKee remains sensitive to intangible guidance from intrinsic properties of the particular stone. He works his subtractive magic with one intention: to attain the most aesthetically pleasing result by revealing intricate beauty already present but latent in the medium.
Unlike bronze, which can be welded, repaired, finished in any number of patina treatments, stone can chip or fracture while being carved or sanded and the surface perfection can only be attained by hand. The largest piece McKee has sculpted “self destructed” in the words of the sculptor, a fracture that occurred during final sanding near the end of a four-month process. He keeps it as an ever-present challenge in his Santa Fe studio.
The majority of McKee’s sculptures find enthusiastic buyers within a short time after going on display. McKee will continue creating stone sculptures for interior collections but he has also begun the search for a monument-sized piece of perfect stone. This leap in scale corresponds to the leap in McKee’s reach. -Wolfgang Mabry
Stone By Mike McKee