McKay started out as a mime artist and never lost his flair for the theatrical. He took a fundamental art course in his youth but found it too academic and boring. Instead, he taught himself to draw by studying the old masters.
The brilliance of McKay’s work can be seen in the Tower of Babel project. Although McKay developed macular degeneration, which left him legally blind, he hand-drew these works – with a large magnifying glass – until his death in 2014. McKay described his fantastical, imaginary drawing project “Axonometropolis”: a city of the imagination; infinite in structures, roads, canals and bridges as if in a daydream.
McKay worked on the Babel Project for twenty years. Axonometropolis is a term he invented to describe a city which can only exist as an axonometric drawing, which describes mass, volume and spatial relationship without perspective. Therefore, there are no vanishing points or horizon. The buildings, pathways, lakes and gardens are visible in their actual scale, in all directions, to infinity. Because he was nearly blind, he could only create one small area at a time, using a magnifier. The drawings started in 2008 were improvised directly, in ink, freehand without a plan.
McKay’s drawings were included in a book, Visionary Architecture: Unbuilt Works of the Imagination, which featured the famous 18th Century architect, Giovanni Piranese. In 1992, he received the award of excellence in international competition from the American Society of Architectural Perspectivists. He was also a member of the Blind Artists Society. His work was exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair in NYC in 2008.
A self-taught artist, Jordan MacLachlan was born and grew up in, Toronto, Canada. From an early age she preferred staying at home where she could fashion things with clay and other materials. There would be no world in which MacLachlan did not feature animals; her kinship with them runs deep. She wove a fantasy family story for herself, choosing to believe she was an abandoned mountain lion cub whose mother had been shot, leaving her to be raised by her adoptive human family.
By the time Jordan turned sixteen, she had acquired her own kiln and became absorbed in her ever-growing collection of artwork. Jordan crafts imaginary worlds – Condo Living, Zoo Living, and Unexpected Subway Living – that explore all aspects of life, from the real to the imagined. Sculpting is an imperative for MacLachlan, who models figures every day. A single figure is born after days of labour, a group gathers several weeks later, and years pass before another world of her own making is finally realized. Unexpected Subway Living has evolved over the past few years and she intends to add figures to it ‘forever.’ Thee hundred sculptures currently populate a 25-floor surface and more figures are added with every passing month.
In Canada, Jordan has shown with public institutions, including MOCCA (Toronto), the Museum of Natural Science (Ottawa), The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery (Waterloo), The Rooms (P.E.I), Orange (St. Hyacinthe Quebec), and the Art Gallery of Burlington. Her work was also featured in an exhibit at the Sor-Troms Museum of Outsider Art in Harstaad Norway. Jordan is represented by Marion Harris in NYC and was featured at the Outsider Art Fair in 2017 and 2018.
Not much is known about the three Lessard brothers. The elderly, single brothers live in a small town in Eastern Quebec and can only be contacted through an antique store, which keeps their carvings hidden in a back room. The carvings are exotic, erotic, and sometimes humorous.
The brothers’ sculptures are typically made from a single piece of wood and range in size from several inches to life-size.
Maud Lewis is often referred to as Canada’s Grandma Moses. She was born in Ohio and moved to Nova Scotia as a teenager after her parents died. Lewis suffered from significant physical disabilities as well as arthritis. At the age of 34, she married a fish peddler, whom she accompanied on his daily rounds, selling hand-made Christmas cards. They lived their entire life in poverty, in a one-room house in the country.
More of a folk artist than an outsider artist, Lewis began painting on other surfaces, such as cookie sheets and Masonite, usually of outside scenes of flowers and farm animals. Her painting later extended to every surface of their house, inside and out. Around 1950, customers started buying paintings directly from Lewis, usually for a few dollars. She gained notoriety in 1970s when two of her paintings were bought for the White House during Nixon’s presidency.
After Lewis and her husband’s death, their house was acquired by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where it was restored and installed as part of a permanent exhibit.
Anick Langelier is a young, self-taught artist living in Montreal. She began painting at the age of 16 in an effort to deal with her symptoms of schizophrenia. She is a prolific artist; the apartment she shares with her father is completely filled with paintings. She lives for creating her art and stops only when she runs out of canvas and paint. Her images depict both fantasy universes and the haunting world of her childhood. She also tackles “the big questions in life”, like the existence of God and the nature of good and evil.
has participated in solo and group exhibitions.
Karine Labrie is a young, deaf, self-taught artist living in Quebec. Labrie is fascinated with historical fashion and the monarchy; her highly-detailed ink drawings depict complex interactions between members of high society. She also creates assemblages and masks from beads and items found in thrift shops.
Over 20 years ago, when Menno Krant was in his early 40s, he was homeless, and lived in his car for a year. Time dragged and he started to doodle while he sat in the car in the dark. Later he started painting with anything on hand, and on any discarded material he could find, like cereal boxes and cigarette packages. Krant paints all day, every day. He uses whatever paint is at hand, and whatever recycled materials are around. Painting is vital to him. It’s self-nurturing. He has thousands of paintings in his home.
Krant stays away from the commerce of the art world. He doesn’t like to go to his own exhibits, he doesn’t like publicity, and he doesn’t like most art dealers. There are very few pictures of him on the Internet. His neighbours don’t know he is an artist.
Luc Guérard lives in Montreal, Quebec. He is a self-taught painter; he started painting as a young child and, as he explains it, never stopped. His home is filled with many hundreds of acrylic paintings. His work has been exhibited in Ontario and Quebec.
Daniel Erban was a self-taught artist and math teacher in Montreal. He was a consummate draughtsman and his talent lay in producing lines with apparent abandon. In his words:
The subject is the most important component of the art work. The work represents the subject and not the artist. In the work, it is not the artist that is important but the work itself. In short, art is an activity that interacts with beauty and visual truth. I see myself as a researcher looking for notions that are visual and universally meaningful. Acting on this belief, I create strong works of art representing evil and misery in our society. This has nothing to do with my personality. What matters is the subject, that is where the artwork takes all its strength and its beauty.
Erban has had solo and group exhibitions in Ontario and Quebec. He passed away in 2017.
Claude Bolduc was born in Alma, Quebec and taught himself to paint at the age of 32. His early paintings featured his personal memories or social issues and were depicted in a naïve style. He began exploring ‘the invisible’ a few years later, drawing his inspiration from his own interpretation of the world. The artist attempts to reveal the limits of the parallel universes of consciousness and unconsciousness. A plethora of strange creatures inhabit a sensual and dreamlike world, among mythical and Judeo-Christian imagery. Painting, for Bolduc, is necessary for his survival.
Bolduc has exhibited in Montreal, Toronto, Miami, Los-Angeles, New-York, Detroit, Paris, London, Berlin, Geneva, Florence, and Melbourne. His work is in private collections in Canada, United-States, Europe, and Australia.