SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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26 NOVEMBER 2018 SchoolArts L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST STATEMENT Primitive animal instincts lurk in our own depths, waiting for the chance to slide past a conscious moment. The sculp- tures I create focus on human psychology, stripped of con- text 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 ten- sion. Beneath the surface, they embody the consequences of human fear, apathy, aggression, and misunderstanding. Both human and animal interactions show patterns of intricate, subliminal gestures that betray intent and moti- vation. The things we leave unsaid are far more important than the words spoken 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 incline of the head, and the slightest uncon - scious gesture. 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. Entangled in their own inter- nal and external struggles, the figures express frustration for the human tendency towards cruelty and lack of under- standing. Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions. An invitation and a rebuke. DISCUSSION Write the word "anthropomorphic" on the board. Ask students if they are familiar with the term and if they can define it. After some discussion, provide the cor- rect definition or reinforce it if one of your students has shared it. Next, show some age-appropriate examples from pop culture, such as Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig (for younger students), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney cartoons, and Bojack Horseman. Invite students to share additional examples. Show Cavener's anthropomorphic sculptures. Ask, "How are Cavener's sculptures different than the examples of anthropomorphic characters we just discussed?" Lead the discussion towards the idea that the animals are mostly realistic but have human emotions and facial expressions. Ask, "What story is this sculpture telling?" Lead students in an open-ended discussion of their interpretations. STUDIO EXPLORATIONS • Create a drawing, painting, or sculpture of an animal who you know in real life or find interesting. Try to capture the animal's emotions or state of mind in your portrait. • Create an artwork that expresses "human" emotions in an animal or inanimate object. • In a small group, create a list of human emotions and personality traits. Choose two opposing traits (shy vs. outgoing, angry vs. sad, etc.) and create a large collabora - tive painting or sculpture that portrays these emotions through animals or inanimate objects. • In a small group, write a short collaborative story about two or more anthropomorphized animals. Create a collab - orative artwork that illustrates your story. • Create an artwork in any media that explores positive or negative aspects of human beings' relationships with animals. Written by Karl Cole, Art Historian and Curator of Images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, Digital Curriculum Director and Editor at Davis Publications. RESOURCES Website: Process Video: Documentary Video: Beth Cavener, Tribute (detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

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