Thursday, 2 January 2014

On the 9th Day of Christmas...

...this blogger gave to thee...
 ...nine feathered sculptures...
...eight reels of telly... shoes to choose from...
...six party dresses...
...five gold rings!..
...four fancy fish...
...three granulations...
...two bits of wood...
...and a calendar made of tea.

Kate MccGwire is an English sculpture, who specialises in using feathers as her main medium and trying to combine the ideas of beauty and disgust and our perceived notion of what nature is, into her work. 

 Slick 1, 2010
Mixed Media with Magpie and Crow Feathers in Antique Fire-basket

With great organic plumes of beautiful iridescent feathers spilling from cracks in the floor, rusted pipes, old stoves and older fireplaces, MccGwire allows them to snake their way out into the rooms in which they are installed.
 Shroud, 2013
Mixed Media with Mallard Feathers and Quills in Antique Dome
But  in her studio, an old barge moored by a semi-derelict island of the Thames, she collects, sorts and cleans thousands of different species of bird feathers, preparing them for use within her sculptures
Writhe 2, 2010
Mixed Media with Mallard Feathers in Antique Glass Dome
One of the draws of the particular medium, specifically the use of pigeon feathers, is the contradiction of making something of great beauty from a waste product, left behind by a incredibly common and familiar bird which is considered vermin to many. 'Rats with rings', but their beauty was not lost on MccGwire, who could also see the irony given a dove, a symbol of hope, peace and purity, is part of the same family.
 Cusp, 2013
Mixed Media with Rooster Feathers in Antique Dome
Contacting pigeon fanciers and racer across the United Kingdom, MccGwire wrote, explaining her artwork to them and asking if they would collect and send the biannually shed wing feathers (and many tail and other feathers) to her, to become part of her collection and sculptures alongside the scavenged feathers we all see blowing across the streets as we go about our daily lives.
Occulus, 2013
Mixed Media with Magpie Feathers 
Using pigeon; magpie; chicken; rooster; mallard; crow; goose; peacock; pheasant; teal; woodcock; wood pigeon; quail; grouse; French partridge and turkey feathers (among others) within her work, it can take months and in relation to some of the larger sculptures even years to collect enough feathers to fully engulf their forms. 
 Coalesce, 2013
Mixed Media with Rooster Feathers with Oversized Scientific Clamp
Pigeon feathers are the easiest of her materials to source, as so many are kept caged by enthusiasts. Game birds such as grouse and pheasants are shot for sport and food, then she asks the pluckers to collect specific feathers for her while the birds are plucked. Crows and magpies, are harder to obtain. For these she must approach farmers, who shoot the birds as pest control as not only do they destroy crops, but kill fledgling birds (it is thought this may be a factor in the decline of songbirds in the UK). While gruesome, this practice is also part of MccGwires work, taking something macabre and creating something beautiful. 
 Evacuate 1, 2010
Site Specific Installation, Mixed Media with Feathers (Mallard, Goose, Peacock, Pheasant, Teal, Woodcock, Woodpigeon, Quail, Grouse, French Partridge, Turkey and Chicken)
Placement is also important, game birds pour from the an old fashioned range cooker. Overflowing from the oven and stove top where many such birds would have been cooked. Pigeon feathers surge from broken pipes in run down buildings which would have housed them.
Dwell II, 2011
Mixed Media with Pigeon Tail Feathers
And others are placed in antique domes like specimens from another era.
Sluice 1, 2009
Site Specific Installation, Mixed Media with Pigeon Feathers

MccGwires work is incredible and as you begin to think about the source of the feathers and the meaning behind not only how they are gathered but the way we think about specific birds, you understand her artists statement, and her wish to show the duality of beauty and repulsion.

Link | Kate MccGwire Website
Link | Kate MccGwire Blog
Link | Slick 1, 2010
Link | Shroud, 2013
Link | Cusp, 2013
Link | Sluice 1, 2009
Link | Kate MccGwire Interview from Don't Panic Magazine
Link | Kate MccGwire's Feathered Forms challenge Our Perception of Beauty from Daily Art Muse

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Part ten tomorrow...
Listening: In The Cold, Cold Night - The White Stripes

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