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In Kate MccGwire’s Sculptures, Feathers Flow Like Rivers

The London-based artist toes the line between everyday experience and the surreal.

Kate MccGwire’s surreal installations are at once gorgeous and unsettling. A massive feather-clad form oozes out of a stove, winds around itself, and is frozen on the cusp of enveloping everything in sight. Similarly, three serpentine volumes spill out of a fireplace and bleed onto the floor — once more, suspended before overtaking the room.


As the London-based artists MccGwire suggests on her website, the work occupies the threshold between everyday reality and fantasy. “[It] has a consistent ‘otherness’ to it that places it beyond our experience of the world,” she writes. The effect is achieved with feathers — thousands upon thousands of them — which she sources from a network of farmers and pigeon racers. Farmers shoot crows and magpies as pests and send the the wing and tail feathers to MccGwire in self-addressed, pre-paid packages. A plucker, similarly, keeps her well stocked in game feathers (pheasant, duck, and woodcock), which are shot for sport and food. She then sorts and washes all the feathers before painstakingly assembling them into displays.

Check out her work in the slideshow, which includes some of MccGwire’s smaller-scale, writhing sculptures. She is represented by the gallery All Visual Arts.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.