Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh
24 Point Rd.,Wilson Point
South Norwalk, CT 06854, U.S.A.
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ABOUT THE ARTIST
- Kavanagh’s preoccupation with the shapes of things began in earliest childhood. As the daughter of noted Mesoamericanist, George Kubler, her aesthetic was informed by Latin American cultural influences, particularly the pre-Columbian artifacts her father studied and cataloged when he took his family to live in Peru and Mexico. Kavanagh’s family also traveled extensively in Europe on Guggenheim fellowships awarded to her father in 1952 and 1956. Visits to museums and cathedrals throughout Western Europe created a rich background for her life-long appreciation of art and its symbolic content.
- Following a career in teaching and raising a family, Kavanagh has practiced the discipline of carving stone for the past 20 years. With the ardent enthusiasm of a self-taught artist, she searched within the lexicon of Modernist masters (Arp, Brancusi and Moore) for aesthetic influences while developing a style of her own. Working within the tradition of these great sculptors presented a formidable challenge. Gaining proficiency with the techniques they employed took many years. She also needed to learn how to use power tools that were not available when these masters were at work.
- Kavanagh’s sculpture attempts to convey the balance found within the tradition of organic abstraction and the resolution of line and form. Basically monolithic volumes of mass, her forms can be characterized by rounded surfaces, clean and free of descriptive detail. Light interacts with these surfaces, defining and clarifying them. Kavanagh strives for purity and a sense of timelessness in her work. Most of her carvings have been cast in limited edition bronze.
- The tranquility of Kavanagh’s studio in St. Thomas has played an important role in the development of her artistic vision. It is a pure space, looking out at islands in the sea. Shells, coral fragments, and other objects culled from nature are major sources of inspiration. They line the window ledges above her carving tables as reminders that nature is the perfect teacher. Kavanagh has always believed that if she goes into her studio with a mood of calm, inner peace, her art will express her deepest personal feelings.
- A solo exhibition of Kavanagh’s sculpture created in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 was featured in September, 2006 at New York’s Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea. The show was favorably reviewed in the December, 2006 issue of SCULPTURE magazine.
(Kavanagh’s work also received a favorable review in the May, 2003 edition of SCULPTRE, following an exhibition of stone carvings at Tucker-Robbins in New York).
- From June 12 – November 6, 2005, Kavanagh was honored to represent the US Virgin Islands at the 51st International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Five bronze sculptures from her Shape of Time series were the focal point of an exhibition that brought global attention to the Virgin Islands, and the seminal treatise on art history called The Shape of Time, written by her father nearly 50 years ago.
- On October 16, 2005, one of Kavanagh’s large bronze castings, Vertical Edge Form II, was awarded the first F. Scott Fitzgerald prize by John Hightower at the Port Warwick Art & Sculpture Festival in Newport News, Virginia. In 2004, four of her sculptures were on display at OPENASIA, an exhibition of sculpture and installations in Venice-Lido curated by art critic Chang Tsong-zung and Paolo De Grandis of Arte Communications. OPENASIA featured the work of 43 artists from 20 countries.
- Kavanagh has had four solo sculpture exhibitions in New York City. Her sculptures have been shown at the Abigail Adams Smith Museum, New York, NY, the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, CT where she won “Best Sculpture” in 1997, The Audubon Birdcraft Museum in Fairfield, CT, the Stamford Museum and Nature Center in Stamford, CT, The University of Hartford Museum in Hartford, CT and the Yale University Medical School Art Gallery in New Haven, CT. In 2000 Kavanagh won the Amidor Memorial Award for Stone Sculpture at Art of The Northeast at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center in New Canaan, CT.
- Kavanagh works out of studios in Norwalk, Connecticut and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She is represented by the Blue Mountain Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001, and Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, 826 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501. To see the full range of her sculpture visit: www.corneliakavanagh.com
DECEMBER, 2006 ISSUE OF SCULPTURE MAGAZINE – Text as written – Pages 76-77
- One of the most exhilarating art experiences is having one’s preconceptions shaken by work that defies usual expectations. The TSUNAMI sculptures of Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh, which I reviewed for her show at New York’s Blue Mountain Gallery, September 5 – 30, 2006, are like that. A tsunami is universally feared as a bringer of mass destruction, but these sculptures reveal a paradox: a tsunami, if it could be arrested, would have an awesomely beautiful shape. Kavanagh has created a dozen different sculptures that reiterate the essential sublimity of the giant waves.
- Not surprisingly, Kavanagh came to this provocative subject matter because of the devastating tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in December, 2004. Artists frequently feel a visceral need to respond to a crisis. But as a sculptor, she had been prepared for such response long before. Her father, George Kubler, was a prominent art historian who is widely known for his book, The Shape of Time. Kubler was inspired by an earlier book, The Life of Forms in Art, by Henri Focillon, that he had translated from the French. Both books assert that all shapes, art works, artifacts and even tools are bound by shared concepts over a certain period of time, independent of style. Naturally, Kavanagh grew up imbued with ideas about shape and form. When, after a career in teaching and raising a family, she turned to making sculpture, it was of a kind that expresses the essence of form in a declarative way.
- The body of work just preceding the TSUNAMIS, called “The Shape of Time,” was exhibited in the 2005 Venice Biennale where Kavanagh represented the US Virgin Islands Council on the Arts. Her sculptures in that series assume a variety of abstract shapes that often allude to realistic objects. George Kubler was a pioneer in the field of Pre-Columbian art, and one of Kavanagh’s pieces, CHACMOOL, wittily refers to a reclining figure that is prevalent in Pre-Columbian sculpture. She has also decorously commemorated THE FOUR SEASONS, and pre-tsunami, the sea found its way into her work as shell forms. Her work has clearly been influenced by the elegant band of early modern sculptors that includes Brancusi, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Isamu Noguchi. Their work is recognized as the most elevated sculpture of the past century. But with her TSUNAMIS Kavanagh has dismissed the lofty tone. A sense of urgency is in its place. She takes the temperature of our unsettled times and a sense of purity about the work that inspired her has undergone a transformation. The TSUNAMIS are accelerated and convey the onrush of contemporary life. In
the widest sense. One might be reminded of the ideal of speed that characterized the edginess of futurism at the beginning of the last century.
- Kavanagh’s TSUNAMI sculptures have sharper edges than do the characteristic works of her forebears. In describing the mechanics of a tsunami, the artist says that they slice up what is in their path. The sculptures feature a natural dynamic: the immense arching wave by which a tsunami first makes its presence felt, is followed by what she refers to as a “splash back,” a smaller wave that goes in the opposite direction. It is especially potent for being so concerted. The various embodiments of the wave and the ‘splash back’ tango in different ways. Sometimes the ‘splash back’ seems an appendage, but in one piece, wave and ‘splash back’ meet each other head on in what looks like a kiss. The sculptures’ color is important; Kavanagh has chosen various blues to reflect the changing tonality of the sea. The color is auto body paint applied to plaster-covered Styrofoam, certainly an innovation.
- Kavanagh wants to send the TSUNAMIS, scaled up to public sculpture size, out into the world. They might have the totally positive effect of raising awareness as well as monetary funds for victims. The exalting of something awful is a seeming contradiction that might be difficult to assimilate. But it’s the kind of singular tension that the highest art embraces.
New York City