catherine mackey

Sinks and Bathrooms

It all started with a quick tour around the Old Mint building in San Francisco. The building was about to undergo some internal demolition works and one of the architects had 10 minutes to show me around. I popped my head into the male bathroom and was visually assaulted by the 1970's/80's Red interior wrapped around the simple white porcelain fixtures. I took a quick photo. The image lingered in my files and my head for a few years.

And then I went to Alcatraz to see the Ai Wei Wei installation and saw more bathroom fixtures in the workrooms, cells, and hospital wing. The settings were very different from the Old Mint but the fixtures were similar in their simple, pragmatic, functional design.

It took me a while to understand why I felt the need to paint these small artifacts when I usually look at the larger scale of industrial architecture. The common thread linking the sinks to the buildings I paint is the "form follows function" design approach. No ornament. No unnecessary detail. No desire to court attention. The sinks I have painted are mostly enamel over formed steel with exposed pipework and basic faucets. The buildings I paint often have a repeated module of sturdy roll-up shutters or loading bays, the dimensions determined by the size of a cargo container or a delivery truck. There is a powerful beauty in the resulting simplicity of both.


Red Bathroom    30" x 30" Oil and collage on wood.

Red Bathroom  30" x 30" Oil and collage on wood.

Alcatraz Sink # 5   16" x 12" Oil and collage on wood

Alcatraz Sink # 5  16" x 12" Oil and collage on wood