Queenie McKenzie / Kija (Gidja)/Nakarra people / Australia 1915–98 / Texas hills 1994 / Natural pigments with archival binder (Liquitex Gel) on Belgian linen / 203 x 233.5cm / Purchased 2000. The Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund and the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Queenie McKenzie

Queenie McKenzie
Texas Hills  1994

On Display: QAG, Gallery 2

Texas Hills 1994 shows Queenie McKenzie’s country around the Texas Downs station on the Ord River in the East Kimberley. She became famous for her non-traditional style, which employs arresting shapes and striking colours.

Using natural ochres she collected herself to paint these landscapes, McKenzie worked mostly in a profile view, but with features such as rivers and roads depicted from an aerial perspective. She had a close relationship to this country and once said: ‘Every rock, every hill, every water, I know that place backwards and forwards, up and down, inside out. It’s my country and I got names for every place.’1

In later years, as she became less mobile, she revisited those familiar places in her mind and in dreams and then painted her visions on canvas using materials supplied by others. Texas Hills is one of her largest paintings, created late in her life.


1.   Queenie McKenzie, quoted in Patricia Vinnicombe, ‘Tributes: Queenie McKenzie’, Artlink, vol.20, no.1, 2000, p.20.

Queenie McKenzie was born, raised and later married on the old Texas Downs station on the Ord River, in the eastern Kimberley region of Western Australia. McKenzie’s mother was a Malngin/Gurindji woman and her father was white. When McKenzie was a child, her mother resisted attempts by both her father and government authorities to take her from her home.

Government policies of the day were to remove ‘half-caste’ children from their Aboriginal families. McKenzie remembers being rubbed with charcoal to hide her partially white ancestry: ‘I bin all charcoal this way. Black one! . . .They put charcoal on me [and] I’m still here.’1 A highly respected elder, McKenzie played a prominent role in her community as a singer, dancer and teacher.

At more than 70 years of age, she turned to painting as a teaching tool, working with great focus and energy over the last 14 years of her life. Queenie McKenzie also played a key role in establishing native title in the Kimberley region. Prints of her work were selected to commemorate the Sydney Olympics in 2000.


1. Queenie McKenzie, quoted in Nevill Drury. Images 3: Contemporary Australian Painting, Craftsman House, North Ryde, 1998, p.240.

Discussion Questions

1. In this painting, McKenzie uses triangles. How do the shapes help you to understand what the landscape is like?

2. Why do you think McKenzie uses a profile view for some parts of the landscape and an aerial view for others?

3. How do you think this painting could be used to teach the young people from McKenzie’s community?

Classroom Activities

Go outside. What shapes do you see in the landscape around you? Back in the classroom, on a large sheet of paper, make a collage landscape by cutting and pasting shapes from coloured paper. Start by simplifying the view into shapes and organise them into patterns. If your view has a lot of depth (i.e. you can see for a long way), try to organise the parts of the view into rows as McKenzie has done. Lay out the rows one above the other.