Installation: Katie McGroarty

part of the Town Centre Creative Installations programme funded by Renfrewshire Council & Future Paisley

Installation 1 — Katie McGroarty:  Mon 3 – Sat 29 May 2021 

(opening hours to be confirmed – gallery will open to limited visitors under Creative Studio/Galleries Scottish Govt restrictions in force at the time)

Katie McGroarty (she/her) is an intermedia list artist from West Dunbartonshire. Graduating from the Edinburgh College of Art with a BA (Hons) in Intermedia in 2020, her work over the last four years has been centered around social class, accessibility, feminism and queerness. McGroarty’s practice and choice of medium ranges from traditional painting and drawing on canvas and card to experimental printmaking. However, she is perhaps best known for her work with permanent markers on porcelain. 

My work concerns the current crossroads for many people in Scotland with a lineage of working class and an often religious family, whilst also striving to live authentically as queer people often as working-class people. With the issue of lineage, tradition and legacy, queer people are often omitted when heirlooms or familial possessions are passed down generations as the heteronormative ideal of child-bearing often eclipses the idea of gifting an heirloom. This is obviously also harmful to those – queer or heterosexual – who cannot bare children or who do not want to bare children. I grew up seeing porcelain swans, glass clowns, old clocks and knock-off paintings being handed down generations, so valuable that sometimes they were fought over by family members as each claimed why their family should be the recipient and owner. As a queer person I often worried that I would be excluded from these ceremonious giftings as I might not end up with someone who I can bare children with, or might not want to bare children or a lineage at all. My work aims to acknowledge these feelings and decorate the interiors of houses and homes of those queer people, possibly to start their own lineage with a nod to the old and traditional, a lineage that could include friends, family, peers and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. I find this is more effective and comforting as posed to fill any vacancy they might leave with porcelain replicas. Art can absolutely be a means of comfort, it can make our homes look how we feel, it can make streets reflect the outlook of communities and it can bring people together, using a moment of silence to read a statement or contemplate a piece for us to understand what another person is feeling or trying to communicate.  

My proposal for the installation – preferably in a shop window but otherwise would also suffice – is to have a collection of these plates and tiles embellished with phrases belonging to the queer community as well as illustrations of these heirloom objects such as swans, clowns, small ornamental houses, scenes from a knock-off painting such as a meadow or watermill. Within my practice these are typically rendered using permanent marker as a tribute to working class creatives’ often first brush with their own independent practice in the back of jotters or plastic of bus-stops often dismissed as fragments of insignificant Ned-culture or teen angst come to a short fruition in the form of vandalism. In my work I attempt to re-contextualize these markings and medium as art, as I feel intersectionality in queer or working-class communities or theory is key and it is paramount to honour, acknowledge and respect that a person doesn’t need to be working class or queer – amongst various other aspects of their identity, they can be both.  

Putting these objects in a public space would help to make working class queer people feel seen, represented and understood a bit more. Working class communities have a history of being allies of the queer community such as the coalition of the minors’ strikes with the support of the LGBTQIA+, but still there is work to be done. Like all good community work, the base and the progress comes from a place of grass roots.