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April 2005

John Patrick McKenzie is a visual poet—a writer and artist creating striking images utilizing text as the sole formal element. His words are powerful statements from his inner world and interpretations of what is occurring in his immediate community, as well as the rich landscape of popular culture and global politics. John expresses himself on paper, plexiglass, wood, glass, found objects, and furniture using markers, colored pens, watercolors, acrylics, and cray-pas. John has created a unique lettering style of open and closed spaces. His word collages may be read in any direction, from any starting point, and multiple meanings may be found in the variety of ways the words interact. He has exhibited nationally and internationally.

PLoS Medicine asked John, who is autistic, what he thought of the state of health care and he created this piece in response. It speaks to disease caused by environmental pollution, the personal experience of illness, and the prohibitive cost of medication.

John was born in 1962 in the Philippines. He moved to the United States with his family in 1964 and currently lives in San Francisco's Mission District. Since 1989, he has been making art at Creativity Explored, a non-profit visual arts center in San Francisco, where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art. Creativity Explored provides studio space, materials, and instruction for 125 artists working in a wide range of media. To learn more, visit

Image Credit: John Patrick McKenzie


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