What is it?
The diverse functional environment of the world has manifested itself and been the main inspiration for Kate MacDowell’s ceramic sculpture. The conspicuous mix of forces of nature with human and animal anatomy in her work draws interest instantly and leaves a long lasting impact on our minds. The detailed sculpture is all hand sculpted and made from porcelain rendering an incandescent and ethereal facade. Having traveled through Renaissance Italy, Classical and Minoan Greece, Nepal, India and Thailand, her inspiration to art is more experiential rather than academic. This is greatly reflected in the unique portrayal of subjects in her signature style of white nude porcelain, which makes each of her artwork stands out with a message both strong and dramatic.
Kate Macdowell has, through her works, attempted a three dimensional rendition of a warning about the degenerating human relation to the surrounding ecosystem. Using human skeletons or singular part of human anatomy, Kate has emphasized that human fate in relation to the animals are closely entwined and the effects on one is not detached for the other as well. Some of her anthropomorphic art renditions, e.g. the rabbit with a gas-mask, visually stirs our minds and forces us to face our destructive practices towards the ecology as a whole.
Porcelain has seen to last over centuries while retaining a high aesthetic value. Unlike other forms of clay, porcelain develops maximum cracks while working but can be also patched up and progressed without difficulty. Inspired by this quality, Kate Macdowell uses porcelain to vividly depict our delicate ecosystem dying a fast death and urging our minds to be aware of its bizarre effects. Painstakingly, Kate sculpted each piece by hand by slowly hollowing out the porcelain from its solid form to bring out its strength and fine texture making her works of human or animal anatomy and skeleton look faultless. According to Macdowell, the necessity to use porcelain was more important because “A pure white piece also speaks to me of ghosts or negative space–it suggests something missing from the world”. (From her interview at Lobster and Canary)
Kate Macdowell uses visual language of concern to characterize the endangered ecological world as a result of human civilization and careless social activities.
I use human skeleton or human limbs to show that our own fate as animals also reliant upon our environment is closely intertwined with these creatures, and that in losing a part of the natural world, we are losing a part of our own identity as well.
The green aspect
Rather than just being ecologically conscious, Kate Macdowell’s macabre porcelain portrayals forces humanity to jolt up to the extent of damage done to the ecology. The frequent depiction of insects crawling on a face or body-part in her figurines expresses the discomfort brought around to Mother Nature by human destruction of the environment. Macdowell says that her extensive works with frogs, bees, ants, insects, small birds and field mice are because they are the ‘weak links’ or smallest part of the ecosystem becoming the foremost preys to “environmental stresses”.