The British sculptor Kate MccGwire (*1964), whose art has already been shown in numerous group exhibitions in museums throughout Europe as well as the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, has previously worked with diverse materials such as hair, pasta or bones. However, for the last several years, sculptures made of feathers have become her trademark. In 2006, she began using this found material in her art; now she meets the higher demand thanks to the help of farmers and pigeon fanciers who send her feathers by post. Carved, solid forms serve as the foundation of her sculptures.
After she completed her studies in sculpture at the Royal College of Art (London) in 2004 Kate MccGwire moved to a Dutch barge on the Thames in London, which serves as her studio. This location allows her to get back to nature, even within the city. Here she can closely experience the seasons, watch the birds, and is a witness to the constantly changing temperament of the river. This direct proximity is reflected in her work. Although abstract, her sculptures recall anthropomorphic curves and appear tremendously vibrant and dynamic. She frequently intervenes in entire spaces with these forms, which protrude from openings in the walls, pipelines or fireplaces, or creep over pieces of furniture like a snake. MccGwire places smaller works predominantly under a glass case on a plinth or combines them with oversized metal clips, which seem almost brutal when contrasted with the soft, delicate feathers. The artist is fascinated by contradictory notions of beauty and disgust, malice and calm, familiar and alien. With her remarkable art she is able to find a fascinating visual language to convey this. For example she favours using pigeon feathers, as these birds benefit from a contradictory reputation. They are commonly referred to as ‘flying rats’, are considered dirty and are carriers of disease.
However, white pigeons in particular are simultaneously a symbol for peace, purity and fertility. We therefore find them either appealing or repulsive, depending on the context. MccGwire communicates this dual connotation by elevating molted pigeon feathers, a natural waste product, to the rank of art. Her art causes slight discomfort, because the objects have left their conventional location and are now brought to life in a new form and function. At the same time, the beautiful, extreme aesthetic seduces us; there arises a fascination for something never before seen.