Artist Uses 10,000 Pigeon Feathers in Striking Installation That Cascades From a Bookcase

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Discharge,” 2020

For London-based sculptor Kate MccGwire, repurposing found materials into illusory works of art is a central part of the creative process. She says, “I gather, collate, re-use, layer, peel, burn, reveal, locate, question, duplicate, play, and photograph.” Her recent installation Discharge is a sinuous five-meter-tall sculpture that cascades from a massive wooden bookcase. MccGwire used approximately 10,000 gray and white pigeon feathers to create the striking curved shape and undulating waves at the base.

The artist amassed her extensive collection of plumage from pigeon racers, which she sorted by curvature in her studio, before collating them into abstract shapes. “When visitors see the piece for the first time they are drawn to the phenomenal scale, rhythmic patterning, movement, and perfection of the piece,” MccGwire says. “But are often perturbed and revolted when they understand what the material is.” This twofold experience is intentional, as the artist wants the viewer to see the transformation of overlooked materials into something that is aesthetically fascinating.

Discharge is one of the nine installations MccGwire created for her exhibition Menagerie at the Harewood House in West Yorkshire, England. While this sculpture occupies the library, another piece, entitled Cavort, is displayed on the floor of The Yellow Drawing Room. There, MccGwire connects pigeon feathers of varying hues to create mesmerizing patterns, as though it were an embroidered tapestry. At the center is a large motif of a flower made of brown plumes, and surrounding it are swirls of gray and white feathers. “Menagerie shines a spotlight on the ‘common’ bird and connects the themes of nature, sustainability, and art,” a statement from Harewood House says.

Menagerie will be on display at Harewood House until October 25, 2020. Visit MccGwire's website to learn more about her installation art and keep up to date with the artist's latest creations by following her on Instagram.

London-based sculptor Kate MccGwire uses thousands of pigeon feathers in her newest installations.

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Discharge,” 2020

These striking pieces explore the visual aesthetic of found feathers.

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Cavort,” 2020

Both Discharge and Cavort are part of MccGwire's exhibition Menagerie at the Harewood House in West Yorkshire.

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Cavort,” 2020

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Cavort,” 2020

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Cavort,” 2020

Feather Installation by Kate MccGwire

Kate MccGwire, “Cavort,” 2020

Learn more about MccGwire's exhibition by watching this video:

Kate MccGwire: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kate MccGwire.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.

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