Based in west London, artist Kate MccGwire is known for her serpentine feather sculptures and discomfiting artworks that coil and ooze in every direction. A recent installation follows in that tradition as it pours down like a massive gush of water from a built-in bookcase. Composed of approximately 10,000 pigeon feathers, “Discharge” stands nearly five meters tall and cascades to the floor in feathered ripples. While the plumes lining the main chute are in shades of gray, those at the bottom are lighter, evoking the ways water appears white when it crashes.
The delicate feathers are sourced ethically from pigeon racers who collect the plumes in August and October when the birds molt. MccGwire sorts the materials in her studio, separating the ones that curve left from those that bend to the right, before arranging them in captivating, color-specific patterns. “When visitors see the piece for the first time they are drawn to the phenomenal scale, rhythmic patterning, movement, and perfection of the piece,” she says of the mixed-media installation. “But are often perturbed and revolted when they understand what the material is,” which is exactly her intention. By juxtaposing the raw materials with the finished artwork, she asks viewers to consider the everyday beauty that’s often overlooked.
“Discharge” has been exhibited in an evolution of configurations in South Korea, Berlin, Paris, and now, Harewood House in West Yorkshire until August 14. Take a video tour of the current exhibition—which also includes a massive feather rug and encased sculptures—and find more of MccGwire’s voluptuous projects on Instagram.
Update: The exhibition at Harewood House has been extended through October 25.
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Surrounded by Feathers, Birds Clutch Their Bleeding Hearts in Christina Mrozik's Monochromatic Illustrations
Just as they’d carry a seed to a new location, the birds in Portland-based artist Christina Mrozik’s latest series tightly grasp pulsing hearts in their talons. The graphite illustrations intertwine masses of feathers and avian body parts with the still bleeding organs, suggesting that they recently were ripped from the chests to cause their descent.
Coraticum—cor means heart in Latin—is an exploration of reconstruction, one that’s defined by bringing the heart outside the body. “It represents the beginning place from which feelings unfold, the center, the seed. I see this as the place before the stem or the root, before the flower or the honey,” they say. As a whole, the series considers the difficult emotions necessary for transformation. Mrozik (previously) tells Colossal the project was born out of personal upheaval in their life, which they explain:
I had been undergoing a major rearrangement in my relationship, rewiring my brain’s response to chronic pain and learning about the history of trauma on my nervous system. The way I moved internally was under massive rearrangement and self-scrutiny, and I was doing my best to find where to put things. Then quarantine hit and it felt like the work of rearrangement was happening externally on a global level.
Each monochromatic illustration is connected to a specific step of the reconstruction process: “The Eye of Recollection” to memory, “Safekeeping” to self-preservation, “The Ten Intuitions” to desire and instinct, “Colliding in Reverse” to letting go, and “Untethering Permissions” to questions about authority.
Coraticum is currently on view at Portland’s Antler Gallery, which will be sharing virtual tours of the solo show in the coming weeks. You can find prints, pins, and books of Mrozik’s surreal compositions in their shop, and follow their work on Instagram. (via Supersonic Art)
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In 2012, Bristol-based artist Diana Beltrán Herrera (previously) began sculpting impeccably layered paper birds and other wildlife as a way to record her surroundings. Her lifelike pieces continuously have captured nature’s finely detailed and minuscule elements, like the fibrous texture of feathers and the veins running through leaves.
Today, the artist has expanded the practice to include exotic species and environments she’s never seen up close, developing her paper techniques to express the more nuanced details of the shapes and textures she studies in biology books. Now focusing on the structural elements of fungi, fruit, and florals, Beltrán Herrera shares with Colossal:
Paper as a medium for documentation allows me to register and create notions and ideas of subjects that I have not experienced in real life but that I can experience when a sculpture is completed. I like this approach because it is not harmful, and through my work, I can show and tell my viewers about the things I have been learning, of the importance of nature just by researching and making it myself.
Much of her work centers on conservation efforts and environmental justice. For example, a recent commission by Greenpeace UK bolstered the organization’s Plastic Free Rivers campaign. ” I am constantly looking for more subjects that are relevant to the times we are living in, so that through my work I can communicate important information that can educate or just make things more visible. The approach is very (graphic) and visual, which helps to deliver a message,” she says.
Beltrán Herrera’s upcoming projects include a commission for a coral sculpture, in addition to plans to launch a studio with her brother by the end of 2020. Her hope is to merge graphic and digital design with her paper pieces, potentially adding in animation, as well. Ultimately, her goal is to dive into larger projects. “I don’t see my work as something I want to know how to make and stay safe, but as a challenge, that will always allow me to wonder how to execute and create things that were never made with paper,” she says.
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Through densely laid cross-stitches and whorls of thread, Han Cao revitalizes discarded photographs and postcards. Similar to the artist’s previous projects, her latest series New Nostalgia strikes a balance between the original subjects and the fiber-based additions. Sometimes covering faces with sparse dandelion puffs or confetti-like burst, Cao redefines the vintage pieces and explores how narratives linger as she stitches plumes of train steam that trail beyond the initial photograph’s edges.
Based in Palm Springs, the artist shares glimpses into her process on Instagram, and if you’re in Philadelphia, check out her embroidered pieces that are on view through August 22 at Paradigm Gallery. Cao also sells some of her mixed-media works in her shop.
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Based on an audio recording from a 2016 trip to the Amazon, Australian artist Andy Thomas interprets birds’ trills, squawks, and coos through an animated series of digital sculptures. An extension of a previous project, “Visual Sounds of the Amazon 2” is an abstract rendering composed of bursting dots, billowing fog, and flashes of amorphous forms that correspond to the avian sounds. With each chirp, the fleeting masses contort, grow, and disassemble into a new, vibrant form.
Many of Thomas’s projects explore the intersection of technology and nature, and he tells Colossal that he sees “computers as a hyper extension of evolution.” He expands on the idea by saying:
Humans are changing the biodiversity of the natural world and gradually replacing it with digitized versions, like echoes of the past. I am fascinated with the idea of generating digital art that references the beauty and complexity of nature. I hope this piece will encourage people to research the many amazing varieties of birds that call the Amazon home, and remind us of how fragile and important this place is to us all.
The artist ascribes “Visual Sounds of the Amazon 2” a more urgent context, as well. “This series is dedicated to the people of Brazil and the ecosystem of one of the world’s most amazing forests. The Amazon is known as the lungs of the world and is under constant and ongoing threats of deforestation,” he writes in a statement about the animated project.
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Fanni Sandor has been fascinated by miniatures since childhood, constructing her first sculpture from toothpicks, candle wax, paper, and glue at six years old. “In my country, there (are) no traditions of the 1:12 scale miniature making. In my twenties, I met the first professional miniaturist’s work through the internet. I was completely fascinated,” she tells Colossal.
Today, the Hungary-based biologist and artist fashions minuscule baby bluejays clamoring for food, a mouse peeking out from a bit of bread, and a waddling family of mallards. Inspired by her background in biology, the miniatures feature incredibly accurate details, and most fit easily on the tip of a finger.
Sandor will spend anywhere from two days to two weeks on a single piece, noting that the robin’s nest alone took three days. Her process is multifaceted and begins with collecting photographs of the species before sketching a prototype. Forgoing molds, the artist employs embossing and pin-ending tools to sculpt the animal figures from polymer clay and wire. After baking, she chisels a few more details, paints, and attaches the fur and feathers where necessary.
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