Kate MacDowell – Artist

November 2010 | BY | Issue 74, Winter 2010-2011

In hand-built porcelain work like “Invasive Flora,” Kate MacDowell explores our complex relationship with our environment.

Kate MacDowell’s uber-detailed porcelain sculpture brings fragile flora and fauna to life without the use of color. Her hollow forms are carved to a 1⁄4-inch thickness; no detail is too small, from insect legs so miniscule that they are applied with the tip of a tiny damp paintbrush to the individual veins on a leaf or petals on a blossom.

MacDowell developed her acute attention to detail when she moved to India to work at a spiritual retreat center for a year and a half. “The acres of gardens around the center were lush with bird, insect and plant life,” she says. “I learned to draw back from my daily concerns, and just ‘see.’ I became immersed in the small details.”

When she returned to the U.S. in 2004, MacDowell decided to devote herself to art, and began studying ceramics full time. Her work comments on the conflict between humans’ love of the natural environment and our negative impact on it, including threats like air pollution and climate change. She takes each form very seriously, studying photographs and scientific drawings from a variety of angles to make sure she executes each detail perfectly.

This dedication and innovation has won the Portland, Ore., artist several recent awards, including a 2009 NICHE Award for hand-built ceramics. Her work, ranging in price from $500 to $5,000, is available at Patrajdas Contemporary Art in Chicago, Ill., and Mindy Solomon Gallery in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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