Jesus of the People, oil on canvas, 30″ x 48″, 1999
The Divine Journey — Companions of Love and Hope, oil on canvas, 42″ x 54″, 2017
Holy Mother of the East, oil on canvas, 30″ x 30″, 2009
Abiding Love (triptych), oil on canvas, 120″ x 48″, 2019
The Holy Family, oil on canvas, 42″ x 54″, 2007
Mary and Jesus with the Papel Picado, oil on canvas, 30″ x 48″, 2013
Sanctuary, oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″, 2020
Elijah Hears the Still Small Voice of God, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24″, 2017
See Notes on the Paintings below.
I honor the feminine spirit through diverse, sacred, and secular paintings. I celebrate each one of us — the iconic individual — living out the abstractness of our lifetimes within the sanctuary of the human body.
I give a visual voice to those striving together, or alone, often against great odds, women in transition searching and fighting for racial, religious, and gender acceptance and equality. I honor those on the exquisitely beautiful, hard journey of motherhood.
I believe that by continually making strong, empowering, and inclusive paintings created from the heart — art reflecting inherent human similarities rather than differences — I am contributing to a better, more equitable world.
About the Artist
Contemporary American artist Janet McKenzie celebrates diversity, creating paintings that are inclusive rather than exclusive. She believes that we all are created equally and beautifully in God’s likeness.
Born in New York City, Janet McKenzie studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, and was one of the youngest recipients of the Edward McDowell Traveling Scholarship, which provided a year in Europe.
Janet McKenzie is known for Jesus of the People [see image above], First Place winner of the National Catholic Reporter‘s “Jesus 2000 International Competition”. Revealed for the first time on the Today show, her dark interpretation, modeled from a woman, received a firestorm of hateful reactions and threats. The painting toured the United States for three years and was being shown in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 11, 2001, the exhibition space thereafter evolving into a chapel. Now established as a true icon of this era, Jesus of the People invariably encourages conversations about social injustice and inequality. It has been featured worldwide in print, online, and in documentaries, and the image is carried regularly in protest demonstrations and vigils in support of social justice and the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community. [See the video “Hope” at the link below.]
Orbis Books published in 2009 Holiness and the Feminine Spirit — The Art of Janet McKenzie, which received the 2010 First Place Award for Spirituality from the Catholic Press Association. In addition, Elizabeth Ursic published an extensive biography about the artist, “A Sacred Artist’s Life in Creative Activism”, in Claiming Nobility for Women Activists in Religion (Chicago: Atla Open Press) in 2020. Among other honors, Janet McKenzie was the 2013 William Belden Noble Lecturer at Harvard University’s Memorial Church, which commissioned in 2017 The Divine Journey — Companions of Love and Hope [see image above]. Harvard subsequently produced a documentary about the commission, Divine Journey — A Painter’s Mission. [See link to video below.]
In 2019, Janet McKenzie was a presenter at the “Universal Christ Conference”, sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation, founded by Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, and held at the Albuquerque Convention Center. She spoke about her inclusive art before 2,300 attendees and another 2,800 webcasting.
The Basilica of Saint Mary acquired in July 2021 Janet McKenzie’s Sanctuary [see image above], a new interpretation of Mary and Jesus. [Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred art at the Basilica, discusses the acquisition on his video series Art That Surrounds Us, the link for which is provided below.]
The mother of one son, Simeon, Janet McKenzie lives and works in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Notes on the Paintings
Jesus of the People
Jesus of the People was selected First Place winner of the National Catholic Reporter‘s global competition, “Jesus 2000”. For more than 20 years, this dark and inclusive interpretation, modeled by a woman, has challenged hate and prejudice and encouraged conversations on social injustice and racism. The painting has been featured all over the world in print, film, and online, and now is embraced as a true icon of this time, reflecting that we all are created equally and beautifully in God’s likeness. The work is regularly carried in demonstrations and vigils in support of racial equality; a large image of Jesus of the People was placed at George Floyd’s street memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Divine Journey
Collection of Memorial Church, Harvard University
Wise women over time and in every culture know themselves to be seekers and seers of the Divine. This work of art, a visual prayer honoring the courageous worldwide feminine community — now and over all time — validates their important individual, societal, and maternal contributions, even their very existence. Inspired by and carried by the vision of Mother Mary, here is global inclusiveness, equality, and a vision of mutuality and interdependence.
Harvard University’s Memorial Church was dedicated on Armistice Day 1932 in memory of those who died in World War I, a gift from the alumni to the university. Years ago, the lower level of Memorial Church once served as the only place Radcliffe women could gather on the Harvard campus. The reverential figures surrounding Mary and Jesus pay homage to those women. The history of the church — those lost to wars and those women who found sanctuary in this space of grace — inspired this painting.
Holy Mother of the East
Private Collection (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
“In alternating shades by design, Generous enough to envelop a new life: Face opened and shrouded, Turned eastward, colored by heavenly lights. . . .” ~ Sr. Joanna Chan in Holiness and the Feminine Spirit — The Art of Janet McKenzie (Orbis Books, 2009)
Abiding Love was exhibited for the first time at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture (Catholic Archdiocese of New York City) in Janet McKenzie’s 2019 solo exhibition “Radical Courage and the Feminine Spirit — the Art of Janet McKenzie”.
The Holy Family
Collection of Loyola School (New York, New York)
“The whole painting is a marvelous interplay of realism and symbolism. We are compelled to rethink and to look twice.” ~ Sr. Wendy Beckett in Holiness and the Feminine Spirit — The Art of Janet McKenzie (Orbis Books, 2009)
Mary and Jesus with the Papel Picado
Collection of Cathedral Church of St. Paul (Burlington, Vermont)
This painting has been carried in protest demonstrations and vigils across the United States, including the 2016 Women’s March, Washington, D.C., supporting immigrants, Black Lives Matter, and diversity.
Collection of the Basilica of Saint Mary (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
“Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.” ~ Psalm 61:4
Elijah Hears the Still Small Voice of God
Collection of Dr. Angela McCarthy (Fremantle, Western Australia)
“The prophet Elijah fled into the wilderness and traveled forty days in the Sinai Desert to Mount Horeb. There was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but it wasn’t until Elijah heard ‘a still small voice’ that he encountered the Lord.” ~ Kings 19:9-13