Beth Cavener is an American artist who creates dramatic animal sculptures that delve into the human psychology. Her work manipulatively applies human behaviours and features onto animal bodies. Her sculptures are often posed in positions of discomfort. Their struggle and subtle familiarities create an instant connection with the viewer. Be it one of sympathy, or more introspective than that, you are arrested with emotion looking at them. Cavener has said this of her work,
“On the surface, these figures are simply feral and domestic individuals suspended in a moment of tension. Beneath the surface, they embody the consequences of human fear, apathy, aggression, and misunderstanding.”
Cavener was born in Pasadena, California, to a molecular biologist and an art teacher. From very young, she planned to following on her father’s path to a career in science. She studied physics and astronomy at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. However she decided to switch her major to Fine Art after attending the Cecil Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.
In 2000, five years after graduating from Haverford College, she entered a Master degree in ceramics at The Ohio State University. It was there that her work made its transition from the human form, to life-sized animal figure. The sculptures on show at her thesis exhibition, “tremble shiver,” were the basis of what Cavener explores today. They were portraits of human emotion and psychologicology portrayed using animals.
Cavener spent two years as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. She was a Guest Artist In Residence at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout this period she busily continued to work on large-scale sculptures. She was picked up for representation by the Garth Clark Gallery in New York, and in 2006, the gallery held a major exhibition of her work titled, “A Modest Proposal.”
Cavener work has since frequently been featured in solo and group exhibitions. Her work can also be found in many American galleries including the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Arizona State University Art Museum, the Chazen Museum of Art, the Smithsonian. She has been an Artist In Residence or Guest Artist In Residence across America, as well as in China, Italy, and Japan. Her work has earned her multiple awards and recognitions, among them a First Prize Virginia A. Groot Award in 2005, Jean Griffith Fellowship in 2006, and Artist Trust Individual Art Fellowship in 2009.
Last year, Cavener opened a collaborative studio called Studio 740 in Helena, Montana. Fulfilling a life-long dream of hers, to created a unique studio space for artists.
You can see more of Beth Cavener’s work on her website, Follow the black rabbit. You should also check out this very intimate look into the work and life of Cavener, by Filmmaker Bas Berkhout.