Sitting on a couch at the Bendistillery Martini Bar, Dana MacKenzie sips from a Rogue Dead Guy Ale as he points up at his artwork on an adjacent wall. He's giving a deeply detailed account of his two pieces and revealing some of the inspiration behind the work he placed on the wall just a few minutes prior.
He points out that even 15 years ago, his work might not have even been considered art and that's because the two pieces on the wall are in the form of skateboard decks. The 39-year-old MacKenzie is a graphic artist and made a name for himself early in the history of computer-aided design. Now, MacKenzie lends his skills to the creation of video games, an industry he's been in since the mid-'90s.
While video games occupy his workdays, MacKenzie spends much of his free time out in the garage cranking away at his street-art-meets-art-gallery style that's attracted attention not just in Bend, but far beyond as well. MacKenzie's own artistic endeavors weren't necessarily high on his priority list when he came to town following a stretch in Los Angeles where he worked for Neversoft, the game company responsible for the Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero series.
"Coming to Bend, I had no idea that it would give me the opportunity to rekindle my love for my art. I was blown away how inspired I was by local artists like Mark Rada and Adam Haynes, and it made me realize that in Bend you have an opportunity to express yourself and have fun doing it," says MacKenzie.
In October, MacKenzie rolled out an exhibit called Skullz 'n Skates that showcased the artist's innovatively low-brow style that's heavily influenced by skateboard culture. Skateboarding is a recurring theme during an hour-long discussion with MacKenzie. First off, just the week prior he'd contributed skate decks to the PUSH auction that raised $8,500 for the Division Street Skatepark Project, the community-fueled project to build a first-rate skate park under an overpass on Division Street. He's also designed skateboards for Deschutes Brewery and, of course, the Tony Hawk line.
But here's the thing:MacKenzie doesn't really skate.
"I've never been a big skater. I want to give back to Bend with [the Division Street Skatepark Project] and I want to see my daughter get out there and scrape up her knees. I don't necessarily need to be out there," says MacKenzie.
But that's not to say that MacKenzie hasn't been around skating. He met many a pro skater in his Tony Hawk days and one of his high-school classmates happened to be skateboarding goofball and onetime MTV comedy show host Tom Green. He's also keenly aware of the evolution of the street art that has accompanied the skateboarding culture, some of which may appear on gallery walls soon with his next planned project, "Junk to Punk," which will feature his art on items like recycled metal.
Still sitting on a Martini Bar couch in the shadow of his recently finished skateboard decks, MacKenzie sits up straight and shows off his Rise Up International hoodie that bears his design, then unzips that to display a Rise Up T-shirt with his skewed manipulation of the American Gothic painting. The woman has the trademark Kate Gosselin haircut (that she's since abandoned for extensions) while the pitchfork-bearing man wears Kanye West-style sunglasses as they stand in front of a foreclosed-upon farmhouse. These are just two of the designs MacKenzie has contributed to Rise Up, the clothing and humanitarian organization based in Bend. Rise Up founder, Jesse Roberts, says that MacKenzie's designs are amongst the most popular in the company's catalog.
"I think he's a talented guy. He's got a creative style and he's willing to try new things, and that's a hard thing to do in the apparel industry because you're making art for other people," says Roberts.
You've likely seen MacKenzie's designs elsewhere - maybe in the past on the cover of this newspaper or in the marketing materials he created for Evil Dead: The Musical. And this is what MacKenzie wants to do - get his art out there. And he hopes others will get their work out there as well.
"You realize really quickly that there's an amazing talent pool in Bend and not all of them have come out and done art shows," says MacKenzie. "If there's one thing I want to do, its encourage people that Bend is a fantastic opportunity as an artist to have fun and not be afraid and just go for it. More often than not, you're going to surprise people."
Work currently hanging at Bendistillery Martini Bar (850 Brooks St) and Astro Lounge (147 NW Minnesota Ave). www.danamacdesign.com