Sandra 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, becoming an artist, author and speaker on mental health issues, and giving back to the community. Her memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness was published in 2010. Her latest release is Chop Shtick, a humorous novel about artists that meet at a cafe. 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 work 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.
Creativity helped me to recover from mental illness. However, schizophrenia also affects my art process to be cyclical and contradictory. Schizophrenia 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 consistent.
The juxtaposition of colours creates tension in structured, relatively flat compositions. I work from reference photographs, preliminary ink or pencil drawings of the subject or model. I may incorporate dry brush, but also semitransparent and solid shapes of colour. Brush, mind, and hand become one in an intuitive, painterly process. I focus on fragmentation of space, 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. My work reveals my observation of the human condition. I borrow from comic books, graphic design, and illustration blended with my own expressionistic style. Bright brilliant hues are offset by hard edges and muddier areas reflecting the yin yang, the push pull of conflict within ourselves. I continue to challenge myself, exploring new ideas and experimenting.