If it’s contemporary art, Ashley McKenzie-Barnes has been involved: creating, curating and collecting, to begin with. Then there’s branding, installations, public speaking, and more collaborations than you can shake a paintbrush.
With a career spanning nearly 20 years under her belt, McKenzie-Barnes lives and breathes art in her third-floor loft in the heart of Queen West’s vibrant arts community.
Her work home is in an Artscape building – a non-profit group that provides creative spaces for arts and culture.
With 10-foot ceilings, the loft has become his own private gallery, adorned with creations that appeal to him personally.
“I have an emotional connection to most of the pieces because they’re artists I’ve worked with,” says McKenzie-Barnes, who does commercial and creative work through her company, D.PE Agency, representing diverse, progressive, experiences.
One piece in particular stands out, rising six feet behind a black leather section in the living room. This is a raw, loose canvas hanging from a tree branch provided by artist Dahae Song, a South Korean alumnus of OCAD University of Art, Design and Media, based in Toronto.
“I fell in love with it,” McKenzie-Barnes says, recounting how she spotted the piece in Song’s studio while they were working on a project together.
Song, who has called his art exploration of his deepest “sensitive parts”, had no plans to sell it, according to McKenzie-Barnes.
But the two “had a great working relationship,” so she agreed to part ways with the wall hanging, which McKenzie-Barnes describes as “a really beautiful mix of brushstrokes and simple spheres…a balance of light and darkness.
“There’s so much detail in the brushstrokes that I always see something different (looking at it),” she says, noting that, like other pieces in her collection, it’s a great subject for discussion. conversation.
For McKenzie-Barnes, the conversation about art began in 4th grade when his teacher told his mother that the youngster had shown real talent.
“I was a great draughtsman”, concentrating on still life and portraiture, she recalls. This recognition eventually led to her being accepted into the Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts in Toronto in grade 9.
After high school, she studied advertising, graphic design and art direction, and went on to amass an impressive list of clients and projects, including Harbourfront Centre, AGO and the Scarborough site of Nuit Blanche in 2019, an all-night interactive art event.
The solo exhibition of a Toronto artist she had supported for years produced another eye-catching piece for her loft, where she mainly exhibits artists from BIPOC. It’s a photograph and digital rendering by Afro-futurist artist Adeyemi Adegbesan, who goes by Yung Yemi.
Her finely detailed and embellished portraits “embodied history, future and culture all rolled into one”, according to her website where some of her images are displayed.
McKenzie-Barnes was also captivated by a photograph of a ‘sadhu’ (holy person) taken by Che Kothari, who ‘captured a real moment’ on a holy walk in India where the dark river glistened in the background. .
“Che ended up giving it to me,” she says of the Toronto-based director, producer and photographer who’s shot portraits of performing artists such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Ziggy Marley.
Additionally, McKenzie-Barnes’ collection includes art-related objects and books, such as African American Mickalene Thomas’s coffee table tome titled “Black Women,” which was on display at the AGO there. a few years ago.
McKenzie-Barnes encourages the opening of the art world to all.
“Collecting art isn’t just for the wealthy or the upper class,” she says, advising would-be connoisseurs to stick to their budget and consider buying directly from the artist, which can be expensive. cheaper.
Collecting should be an “organic” process, with exposure to different artists and art forms to understand what appeals to you, she advises. And expand your collection little by little, to evolve your taste.
Don’t let trends turn your head, advises McKenzie-Barnes. The “easy and accessible” work of big names or famous Instagram personalities might not be something you connect with.
“Fall in love with your choices,” as she did, urges the art lover.