McKoy’s exquisitely detailed and skillfully rendered work redefines the idea of wildlife art. Featuring more than 30 sculptures and drawings, the exhibition presents works of stunning realism and virtuosity.
Grainger McKoy Studio
Grainger McKoy in his studio, Sumter County, South Carolina.
Basswood, metal, and oil paint. 84 x 24 x 54 inches, cased. Collection of the Sanderling Inn, Duck, North Carolina. Photo: Ted Borg
American Kestrel, 1998
Basswood, bronze and oil paint, 18 inches high. Collection of Christy F. Taucher.
Red-shouldered Hawks and Copperhead Snake, 1974
Basswood, metal and oil paint, 91 x 52 x 40 inches. Collection of Fay B. Ireland.
Covey Rise, Eastern Bobwhite Quail, 1981
Basswood, metal and oil paint. 42 inches high. Collection of the Sanderling Inn, Duck, North Carolina.
Carolina Parakeets, 1992
Basswood, metal, and oil paint. 88 inches high. Collection of Dan W. Lufkin.
Recovery Stroke, 2010
Stainless Steel. 12 feet high. Collection of the City of Sumter, South Carolina.
Bantam Rooster, 2000
Tupelo, basswood, metal and oil paint. 20 inches high. Collection of Christy F. Taucher.
Ivory billed Woodpecker, 2006
Basswood, metal and oil paint. 29 inches high. Anonymous collector.
The sculpture of Grainger McKoy defies classification. Though a living artist, McKoy does not operate within the circles of contemporary art or the gallery scene. He carves, burns, and manipulates wood with woodworker’s tools, yet his handiwork is rendered with the passion and expertise of a fine art sculptor.
Birds are his subject—an age-old theme that has captured the attention of artists, scientists, and naturalists for centuries. Like a scientist McKoy studies preserved skins and feathers of birds with an objective eye. Like a naturalist he observes birds in their environment, watching how they feed and fly. He knows their predators and prey. As an artist, McKoy shares an interest in depicting avian subjects with many others before him, from John James Audubon (1785–1851) to Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957).
McKoy’s highly realistic representations of birds are made of basic materials—wood, metal, and paint—yet they grip the observant viewer with trompe l’oeil illusion, while rejecting the confounding trickery often implicit in that “trick of the eye” style. Rather McKoy invites us to question, wonder, observe, and above all, revel in the pure beauty of his birds.
A hunter from an early age, McKoy received a gift of an antique duck decoy from his grandmother one Christmas. From this he was inspired to carve his first bird, a shorebird from the cypress wood of his family’s log cabin in rural South Carolina.
McKoy studied architecture in college while obtaining a degree in zoology, but had always shown a talent for art. His skills were recognized by the experienced bird carver Gilbert Maggioni, who convinced McKoy to give it a try. After graduation McKoy began an apprenticeship under Maggioni. Unlike most traditional bird carvers, McKoy and Maggioni sought extreme realism, inserting individual wood feathers rather than carving them out from an existing block. McKoy also engaged his knowledge of architecture to create complex, gravity-defying structural compositions.
Like the artist-naturalist Audubon, McKoy focuses upon the dynamics of avian behavior as inspiration. Showing birds feeding, flocking, fleeing danger, or fighting, McKoy’s sculptural representations appeal as much to aesthetic expectations as to the human fascination with drama and narrative. In his earliest work McKoy includes realistic reference to environment—grasses, mud, sand—to further the naturalistic illusion.
To learn more about Grainger McKoy, visit www.graingermckoy.com.