Natural Macabre – Exhibition with Kate MacDowell, Shay Church and Roxanne Jackson
Shay Church, Roxanne Jackson and Kate MacDowell value images of extinction, death and transformation in their work. They are fascinated with the natural processes of decay and destruction—particularly when in conflict with human systems. Nature is referenced, not by depicting the virile stag, but by illustrating its inevitable decay. With macabre sensibilities, each artist creates sculptures that cross over the slippery “edge” of life into what might lie beyond. As death beckons rebirth, the real becomes surreal, the natural world a fantastic one. These three artists grapple with the edge of reality and existence—in strikingly different, yet complementary ways.
Kate MacDowell’s porcelain sculptures depict sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In each case the union between humans and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices. She is concerned with the impermanence and fragility of natural forms in a dying ecosystem. Each meticulously crafted piece acts as a captured and preserved specimen, a painstaking record of endangered natural forms and a commentary on our own culpability.
Shay Church confronts the ways animals and humans struggle to exist within a landscape. Forced into a relationship none could have predicted; man, plant and animal are left to adapt in a world of constant change. His sculpture metaphorically illustrates symbiotic relationships between life and death, the persistence of species on the brink of existence and so-called “invasive species” flourishing in a new environment. He writes, “While cities grow, wars rage, and industry climbs, nature’s pulse continues to pound. Migratory paths remain, rivers continue to run downstream, wolves hunt, and insects are hatched.”
Roxanne Jackson uses imagery from horror films and the edge of transformation: when a human becomes a beast. Rooted in traditions of pantheism and superstition, the horror movie depicts a dark side of human nature. Mutated creatures are created in the murky depths of our collective subconscious. These images provoke a psychological simile between animal and human, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious. She agrees with Carl Jung who wrote, “a gentle and reasonable being can be transformed into a maniac or a savage beast. One is always inclined to lay the blame on external circumstances, but nothing could explode in us if it had not been there.”