1909–1999

Malcolm McKesson

Malcom McKesson was born to wealth in New Jersey in 1909. He graduated from Harvard, served
in the U.S. Army and seemed, from all appearances, to be perfectly well-adjusted. However, after he
married poet Madelaine Mason in 1961, he abandoned his business career, ended all outside social
activities, and devoted himself to being his wife’s servant and making art. Not until his wife died in 1990,
when McKesson was well into his 80s, did he began to exhibit his work. Though McKesson said he had
never developed sexually and was basically asexual, his drawings reveal a subtle, dark eroticism and
hint at sado-masochistic themes. His dream landscapes are populated by androgynous figures engaged
in mysterious rituals, telling a story, he said, both medieval and modern and harkening back to an
Atlantean age before men and women became opposed to one another. McKesson’s work culminated in a
fictionalized autobiography titled “Matriarchy: Freedom in Bondage,” heavily illustrated with pen and ink
drawings. He described the hero of this manuscript as “a confused young man who finds his strength in
servitude.” McKesson explained: “I want to rediscover a buried tradition, to rediscover the female in the
man; I’ve looked for a long time for a social dimension to all this; maybe now the world is ready for this
sort of thing.”

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American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)

800 Key Highway

Baltimore, MD 21230

410.244.1900

info@avam.org

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