Animals That Tell You Who You Are

The Blue Review

December 7, 2017

"Beth Cavener is an unusually pensive standard-bearer. Her animal sculpture is authentic, compelling, conceptually necessary and technically wondrous. Cavener’s solo show, “The Other,” opened at Jason Jacques Gallery in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and reaffirmed her status as the progenitor of a subject that, when done with guttural (and ominous) vision, yields an intense multisensory reaction unique only to this genre. The psychology of her work is undeniable, powerful. Her animals blush, they contort, they flirt, they warn, they imprison. The first perceptual layer lies in their shocking beauty: the muscular, confident arcs of their bodies, the lightly craggy edges that denote Cavener’s lucid flow of energy. The lines of the animals seduce as the animals themselves seduce. Yet, because of their status as animal, one pauses. Can this coyness possibly be directed at the human viewer? One does a Freudian double-take.

And there is a satisfaction in their beauty. One can look at Cavener’s work and revel in a way usually considered taboo with the unavoidable spiderweb of art world connotations. Beauty is attached to the sticky topic of the human nude, especially the female human nude; in particular, under a male gaze. One can admire the curl of a fox tail or rabbit ear without all the tricky semantics.

This combination of sensuality, beauty, and voyeurism — with a distinct wariness — is fettered when originating from a human subject. For an animal subject to instigate these sensations is another matter and delves into a psychological realm in which figurative and representational art has neither authority nor equivalent. In the realm of Cavener’s subjects, there is no judgment, because we don’t possess a vernacular that articulates how the unconventionality of human viewer and animal subject should be judged."

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