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Showing at 21c Nashville On display from April 2017 - December 2018
About the Exhibition

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.

Beth Cavener Stichter’s ceramic sculptures combine human and animal traits in both form and subject matter. The multi-hued figures in Stichter’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. Reflecting on her fascination with animal and human behavior, the artist says that since childhood she has 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.”

More alike and more abject, Stichter’s Spanish Feral Meat Goats confront the viewer full frontal, their heads turned to the side or downward, their gaze and limbs poised in mid-movement or conversation. The living breeds for which these works are named are the descendants of livestock brought to the United States in the 16th-century; their evolution as an especially hardy species is connected to the artist’s interest in human adaptability. Old or young, spry or limp, aggressive or acquiescent, taunting or fearful, Stichter’s stoneware Menagerie explores “those uncomfortable, awkward edges between animal and human….Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures are engaged with the subjects of fear, apathy, violence and powerlessness. There is something conscious and knowing captured in their gestures and expressions, both an invitation and a rebuke”.

Beth Cavener Stichter was born in Pasadena, California in1972, the daughter of a molecular biologist and an art teacher. As a result, “The connections between art and science have always been at the heart of my work. My mother, a ceramicist, and my father, a molecular biologist, raised me with an appreciation for the world on its most minute and grandiose scale.” Stichter graduated from Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania in 2002, studied at the Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Tech University, Smithville, Tennessee and in 2002 completed her MFA in ceramics at The Ohio State University. Stichter’s works have been collected and exhibited in museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Design, the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, and many others.


Beth Cavener Stichter (American)
Breathe, 2008
Stoneware, paint, antique stool

The Choleric, 2010
Stoneware, paint, mixed media

The Melancholic, 2010
Stoneware, paint, mixed media

The Phlegmatic, 2010
Stoneware, paint, mixed media

The Sanguine, 2010
Stoneware, paint, mixed media

Spanish Feral Meat Goats, 2002
Stoneware, terra sigillata, hemp rope, hooks

Additional works on view:

Menagerie also includes animal imagery in photographs by Rodney Batista, Laura Lee Brown, Tim Flach, and Anthony Goicolea. Brown and Goicolea use digitally manipulated photography to create fantastical or mirage-like visions, while Batista’s female portrait merges human and animal features, and Flach’s anthropomorphic bats are captured up close and upright, their poses and expressions reflecting human behavior.

Rodney Batista (Cuban), Mito del ama de casa (The Myth of the Housewife), 2011
Digital print

Laura Lee Brown (American), Untitled, 2017
Digital prints on canvas

Tim Flach (British), Compassion Bats, Egyptian Bats, Opera Bat, 2011
Digital c-prints

Anthony Goicolea (American), Cherry Island, 2002