Sarah McKenzie

Gallery Affiliations: Jen Bekman Gallery

Region: West


City / State: Boulder, CO

I view architecture as a lens for understanding our society and the cultural/political shifts that have shaped it over time. What we build tells us a lot about who we are as a people and what we value, versus what (and who) we cast aside. Nowhere is our architecture more revealing than in our institutional buildings—massive structures designed to communicate our collective ideals and mythologies.

In 2020, after several years making paintings of museum interiors, I became interested in US prison architecture. Because we incarcerate more people per capita than any other country in the world, our prisons are inextricably bound up in our national identity, despite our claim to be the “Land of the Free.”

In 2021 I received a generous grant, the Marion Fellowship, to support this project. I also began teaching drawing in Colorado state facilities through the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative. This experience has been life-changing, enabling me to collaborate with incarcerated artists who have shared their experiences with me and influenced future directions for this work.