Washington-based artist Beth Cavener sculpts human-sized animals from clay and other materials in both dramatically overt and subtly ambiguous displays of emotion. The anthropomorphic sculptures, which are hung from ropes or nailed to walls, are filled with contrasts that show the extremes of both human emotion and animalistic behavior: predator and prey, love and hate, terror and peace.
Like Aesop did in his well-known ancient Greek fables, Beth Cavener uses certain animals as symbols and stereotypes to represent human conflicts and their results.
Instead of using words to describe interesting human situations, Cavener depicts them in clay utilizing fauna that she so carefully raises from conception to birth, often starting with as much as two thousand pounds of clay.
“On the surface,” shares Cavener, “these figures are simply feral animals suspended in a moment of tension. Beneath the surface, they embody the consequences of human fear, apathy, aggression, and misunderstanding.”
The creative process is intensely concentrated. Cavener initially decides to focus on a certain emotional state, like fear or anger. Then, over the course of two years, she develops six to eight characters that address those two feelings.
And as any devoted introspective will attest, making the time to explore a specific emotion – and REALLY committing to locking yourself up in that train – will give you powerful insight into reading and depicting the spectrum of nuances therein.
Cavener, who spends a great deal of time alone in her studio, has stated that a large portion of her work focuses on loneliness, a state of being she has attested to feeling comfortable with “even though she is not happy being there.