Kate McGwire (b. 1964) is a British abstract sculptor who works primarily with the feathers of native British birds. She discusses on the podcast how a single feather being out of place would negatively impact both her own and Stone’s work. But apart from a keenness of observation and skillful technique, the similarity in their art ends there. McGwire’s sculptures are non-representational, sinuous, reptilian and intentionally creepy. McGwire says, “I suppose the contrast between our work is that [Stone] was being paid to do a recording job, which she obviously loved and did with great skill. I’m in a different position, and I make work that taps into those things we already know, but subverts them in some way to make us feel something else, something uncomfortable.”
That contrast, between a blatantly commercial contract and the freedom to produce work of your own, neatly sums up the dilemma of a modern artist. Making enough money to live on vs. making “Art”, with a capital A. It helps for your work to be beautiful to be accepted, but I think it’s a shame that many feel it also needs to be subversive.
- The Art Fund podcast, ‘Art and Stuff’
- Sarah Stone (Item of the month, February 2014), Natural History Museum archives
- National History Museum, free to all, nhm.ac.uk
- Kate McGwire – katemccgwire.com
- Sarah Stone’s 1788 work, 175 Watercolors of Birds was acquired for the Natural History Museum with Art Fund support in 1996.