Beth Cavener’s ceramic sculptures combine human and animal traits in both form and subject matter. The multi-hued figures in Cavener’s Emotions series are named for the four “humours,” the Greco-Roman theory that physical health and personality are determined by the relative balance of bodily fluids: the blood-red The Sanguine is wound tight with energy, poised for activity; The Melancholic is pale, weighed down in thought or sorrow; the yellow The Choleric is posed in motion, expressing a youthful energy; hung from its hips and looking impassively outward, The Phlegmatic’s pale blue features suggest the winter of age. In each, the intricate details of facial features, bodily form, color, and the lines delineating fur, muscle, and bone express and elicit a range of human emotions and experiences.
Shelley Reed’s monumental, eleven panel painting, In Dubious Battle, depicts an allegorical narrative, casting animals from art historical paintings as the characters in an unfolding drama that ends in an epic struggle between dogs, tigers, lions, and leopards. By painting in shades of grey, black, and white, Reed distills the scene and unifies the image by focusing on the heightened emotion between the animals. Reed was fascinated by these animals; painted before the invention of photography, artists painted animals from memory, the stories from other people, or their imaginations. The resulting images, often fantastical renderings, were frequently very different from reality. In Dubious Battle is a mash-up of these details and passages, appropriations from twenty-three different artists including Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Alexandre-François Desportes, Melchior d’Hondecoeter, and George Stubbs, among others.