Sandra Yuen MacKay attended Emily Carr College of Art and Design, and received a Fine Arts Diploma from Langara College and a degree in art history from the University of British Columbia. She was the recipient of the 2012 Courage to Come Back Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for overcoming severe adversity and giving back to the community.
Her memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness was published in 2010. She also published Chop Shtick, a humorous story about artists that meet at a cafe. Her upcoming release is From New York to Vancouver: Stories on the Fly, co-written with James D Young, a New York author. Her artwork is in public and private collections in North America. in 2017, she became an Active Member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. She works and resides in Vancouver.
Her artwork has been exhibited at Federation Gallery, Fragrant Wood Gallery, Leighdon Gallery, Havana Gallery, University Women's Club of Vancouver, Eastside Culture Crawl, Gallery Gachet, Crystal Mall, ROAM Gallery, Artbomb, the CONNECT show, Coast Resource Centre, The Art Studios, Brilliant! Art Show, cafes and other locations. She is the subject of two videos, Psychopia and The Beautiful Mind of Sandra Yuen MacKay.
My art practice began as a catharsis. However, my illness also affects my art process to be cyclical and distorts my perception to a degree, increases imagination and sensitivity to others, fuelling a diverse, complex, multifaceted approach to genre and subject matter. I have painted abstracts, florals, animals, people and places but my sense of colour and application remain apparent.
Starting from reference photographs, preliminary ink or pencil drawings of the subject, I then translate the image to canvas, refine and apply acrylic paint in transparent glazes, dry brush and solid areas. Brush, mind, and hand become one in a very direct process, raw and polished at different times. I focus on fragmentation of the picture plane, line and balance.
In 2015, I created a series of psychological interpretations of the figure as entities with unique characteristics, personalities and feelings. Then I moved to a city scenes series about alienation and anonymity, the isolation of living with stigma. Bright hues with black edges reflect the yin yang, the push pull of conflict within ourselves. Visual tension is a signature of my process, forceful and lively in which there is no pause or hesitation.