MacDowell’s exploration of human-to-nature relationships often tucks darker details within her elegant craft, and here in ‘Cuckoo’ an exposed human foetus is ensconced and easy to miss amongst small baby birds. The delicacy of the piece conveys the fragility of fate and shared existence, and the poses, shroud-like white clay and nakedness can’t help but unmask questions of life and death.
The romantic assurance of nature as a divine and cosmic binary to humanism often falls far short of contemporary reality, and MacDowell works to illuminate this divide between truth and beauty in her ceramics. ‘David & Goliath’ is, like all of MacDowell’s work, carefully hand-built — the cross-sectional representation of hand and animal-head remarkable for the detail conveyed in simple, bloodless white clay. A stance suggests victory, the death and decapitation of the animal an act of trophying that is mirrored and reframed again in the overall form, and the arm that represents humanity becomes as anonymous and violently detached as the act of the killing itself.
MacDowell’s ‘Sparrow’ works to unionise humanities acts with nature, and the destructive feedback loop of results that might ultimately be wreaked upon both. The human skeleton nestled in the hollow of the bird suggests a shared fate and interdependent state, each segment delicately hand built from porcelain and coated with a simple cone 6 glaze to heighten the sense of ghostly beauty and sacred symbolism.