“Besides love and sympathy animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts which in us would be called moral.” ― Charles Darwin, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”―James Herriot, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ― A.A. Milne
Beth Cavener is a sculptor who has produced a set of pieces that I find incredibly moving. She’s captured so many emotions within their forms – predator and prey, love and hate, fear and peace, they are represented. Her aim was to depict human emotions by portraying them in animal form, however personally, I feel this is not simply a case of anthropomorphism, for animals too feel every one of these emotions and they are just as much a core of their beings as it is ours. It covers the lot.
She says ”
“I choose animals to represent human characteristics, so I find that there are similarities. However, I think most of those similarities are social constructs in a way. We want to anthropomorphize animals, we want to see them as being human-like. So I think we ascribe motivations or complexity to their behavior and actions that they probably don’t actually own. But I’m not ultimately interested in what animals are really like. What I’m interested in is what we think they are like, and how we see ourselves in them. I like the idea of borrowing the perceived moral innocence of the animal, something we desire to see in ourselves, in order to highlight just how strange and complex and unlike an animal those emotional and psychological states are.
There are primitive animal instincts lurking in our own depths, waiting for the chance to slide past a conscious moment. The sculptures I create focus on human psychology, stripped of context and rationalization, and articulated through animal and human forms. On the surface, these figures are simply feral and domestic individuals suspended in a moment of tension. Beneath the surface they embody the impacts of aggression, territorial desires, isolation, and pack mentality.
Both human and animal interactions show patterns of intricate, subliminal gestures that betray intent and motivation. The things we leave unsaid are far more important than the words we speak out-loud to one another. I have learned to read meaning in the subtler signs; a look, the way one holds one’s hands, the tightening of muscles in the shoulders, the incline of the head, the rhythm of a walk, and the slightest unconscious gestures. I rely on animal body language in my work as a metaphor for these underlying patterns, transforming the animal subjects into human psychological portraits.
I want to pry at those uncomfortable, awkward edges between animal and human. The figures are feral and uneasy, expressing frustration for the human tendency towards cruelty and lack of understanding. Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures are engaged with the subjects of fear, apathy, violence and powerlessness.
Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions. An invitation and a rebuke.”
I’m including a video of some of the pieces at the bottom of this post, because the scale and impact is all the more felt by seeing them ‘live’**.
The use of crystal and glass drops for blood is particularly effective.
In Bocca al Lupo
The Sentimental Question
The Golden Netted Hare
Tangled Up in You
The Question that Devours
Your Eyes have their Silence.
**(Worth watching this one Roughseas)