I was stopped in my tracks by Kate MccGwire's pieces constructed out of pigeon feathers. You might have noticed by now that I especially love installation art and art made out of bizarre mediums, so MccGwire's work definitely fits the bill.
I just love seeing materials reimagined. When it's done well, it makes you immeditately realize how different the mind of the artist is... for example, I would never in a million years have looked at a pigeon feather and imagined something so beautiful and nuanced. But in the hands of MccGwire, something so basic and mundane is transformed and we suddenly see it through a completely different lens.
The beauty of art like this is a great example of Kant's idea that universal beauty is found in things that appear to have purpose, but not one that we can actually perceive. In other words, it seems like it should have a purpose, but we can't tell what that purpose would be, and thus we don't desire to consume or possess it, we simply derive pleasure from experiencing it.
MccGwire's organic forms seem independent, like they have a life of their own, a goal, a purpose, but we can't tell what it would be.
The "cage" element is pretty brilliant. It totally changes how you view the piece. In the one above, the mass of feathers looks like its writhing like a python, quickly growing too large for its cage, and it seems to say something about keeping birds in cages. ...Or maybe about what kinds of birds we keep in cages and our narrow view of what's beautiful-- pigeons ordinarily wouldn't be valued enough to be kept, but with the feathers reimagined by MccGwire, the form is beautiful enough to be put on a pedestal-- or in a cage-- to be possessed.
In the one below, the glass cloche makes the "bird" seem like it's a taxidermied specimen, neatly preserved under glass for all time, and the white feathers, compared to the irridescent grey ones, seem so much more still and even peaceful, adding to the RIP connotations of the piece.
More of Kate MccGwire's work at her website here.