Beth Cavener Stichter

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Beth Cavener
Beth Cavener demonstrating how she dismantles her work
Born (1972-11-25) 25 November 1972 (age 44)
Pasadena, California, United States
Occupation Sculptor

Beth Cavener (born 1972), also known as Beth Cavener Stichter, is full-time professional studio artist residing in the U.S. state of Montana. Born in Pasadena, California, Cavener recently relocated to Helena, Montana, where she has built a collaborative studio, called Studio 740.

Cavener addresses controversial, potentially embarrassing subject matter head on and in direct opposition to the reputation of her chosen medium, clay.[1] "The artist forms animals by hollowing out blocks of clay, giving her subjects a raw, unrefined appearance as if they sprang from the material itself".[2] Cavener focuses her sculpture on human psychology, stripped of context and rationalization, and articulated through animal forms. "This use of veiled anthropomorphism began in 2002."[3] “On the surface,” says Cavener, “these figures are simply feral animals suspended in a moment of tension. Beneath the surface, they embody the consequences of human fear, apathy, aggression, and misunderstanding”. When creating her sculptures of animals, Cavener stated "...I borrowed the perceived purity and moral innocence of the animal image and imbued it with human complexity".[3] In making these painstakingly modeled works Cavener has learned to read meaning in the subtler signs; “rely[ing] on animal body language in [her] work as a metaphor for these underlying patterns, transforming the animal subjects into human psychological portraits. Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions, both an invitation and a rebuke.” [4]


Cavener was born in Pasadena, California, United States. She was born the daughter of a molecular biologist and an art teacher. As Cavener writes, ”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. From my mother I learned the language of clay and the power of ideas passed through hands. My father and I spent hours staring at the night sky, while he stretched the seams of my imagination with tales of recombinant DNA and evolutionary battles on the microscopic scale. Every moment of my memory has been spent investigating the natural world around me.” [5]

Cavener went on to pursue her studies in physics and astronomy at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Though intent early on in her education in following her father’s footsteps with a career in science, Cavener switched her major her last year of undergraduate studies to Fine Art and received a BA in Sculpture.[6]

Cavener's interests in science and art persisted through her early professional career. Though she had been trained in the classical atelier style through the art department at Haverford College, the Cecil Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, and through an apprenticeship with sculptor, Alan LeQuire in Nashville, Tennessee, she was drawn to the surrealist movement of the 1920s, and more contemporary narrative artists, such as Francis Bacon, Joel-Peter Witkin, George Tooker, and Odd Nerdrum. After spending four years in Columbus, Ohio, developing her artistic style and voice, Cavener entered graduate school at The Ohio State University, where she received her Master's in Fine Arts degree in ceramics. Her thesis exhibition, "tremble shiver," made the transition from working with the human figure to using human-scaled portrayals of the animal body to express human emotion and psychological portraits.

Following her master's studies at Ohio State University, Cavener spent two years as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts and completed a brief Guest Artist residency at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After this intense period of development where she continued to work on life-size and larger scale works, she was represented by the Garth Clark Gallery in New York, NY. Her first solo exhibition with the gallery, "A Modest Proposal" was shown in 2006.

In 2008, Cavener joined the Claire Oliver Gallery on 26th St. and 10th Ave, New York City. She opened a show with the gallery called “On Tender Hooks” on October 22, 2009. In 2010, she had a show entitled "The Four Humors," inspired by the ancient Greek notion of being able to characterize one's personality by which "humor" they possessed in excess. Her most recent show, "Come Undone," was displayed in the fall of 2012.


A Second Kind of Loneliness by Beth Cavener Stichter, 2009, Honolulu Museum of Art

Cavener's usual working method is building solid sculptures on metal armatures, often with 2,000 or more pounds of clay at a time, then cutting the piece into 30-160 sections, hollowing out each section out to 1/4" thickness, and reassembling the pieces before firing. In order to work on a larger scale, the reassembled hollow pieces are then cut again to fit inside the kiln, fired, and then reassembled with glues and epoxies. (A slideshow of this process can be seen on her website under the Materials and Techniques section). She usually paints the surface with flat interior latex paint. This allows her to fill in seams after reassembly and maintain the look and feel of clay. She has also used terra sigillata and vitreous slips.

Cavener is best known for her hand-built stoneware animals in unexpected poses. Her A Second Kind of Loneliness from 2009, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of this. The hollow sculpture contains an internal mechanical breathing device that animates the pinwheel. The Arizona State University Art Museum (Tempe), the Chazen Museum of Art (Madison, Wisconsin), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (Spokane, Washington), the Racine Art Museum (Racine, Wisconsin), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington DC), and the Tennessee State Museum (Nashville) are among the public collections holding sculptures by Beth Cavener.

For "Come Undone," her 2012 show at the Claire Oliver Gallery, she explored mixed media, including handmade doilies for "The White Hind" and sugar crystals for "The Adoration." "Each piece in the show is a self-portrait representing different aspects of the artist's femininity."[7] Stichter was quoted saying "I wanted to explore the idea of feminine sexuality and how difficult it is to express desire-passion in a woman without it being a taboo, or without it being seen as wanton."[8]



Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

2012 "Come Undone" Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2010 "The Four Humors" Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2009 "On Tender Hooks" Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2008 "Apologia" Art Spirit Gallery, Coeur d’Alene, ID
2006 "A Modest Proposal" Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
2005 "The Wildness Within" G-Spot Gallery, NCECA, Baltimore, MD
2004 Contemporary Crafts Museum, ACC Grant Exhibition, Portland, OR
2003 "Animal Body, Human Space" Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT
2002 "tremble, shiver" MFA Exhibition, Columbus, OH
2000 Acme Art Company, Columbus, OH

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

2012 Beyond Bling, Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2012-13 Animatopoeia: A Most Peculiar (Post Modern) Bestiary, The Galleries at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH
2012 10-20-10, Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2012 Sources and Influences, The Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV
2012 2012 NCECA Invitational: Push Play, The Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA
2011 Adrift, The Hyde Gallery at the Nesin Graduate Center, Memphis College of Art, Memphis, TN
2011 Jean Griffith Fellowship Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, Pottery Northwest, Seattle, WA
2010 Art Miami 2010, Claire Oliver Gallery, Miami
2007 From the Ground Up: The 2007 Renwick invitational, The Smithsonian Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington DC
2007 Man and Beast, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
2006 Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award, Shepparton, Australia
2005 Dominion: Man in Nature, Gallery Materia, Scottsdale, AZ
2006 Animal Instincts, Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, MD
2005 fancical: Ceramic Artists and the Forms of Nature, Cresson Gallery, University of Wisconsin WI
2005 School’s Out!, NCECA 2005, Catonsville Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD
2005 Clay Menagerie, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
2005 A Tale to Tell: Contemporary Narratives in Clay, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI
2005 NCECA 2005 Exhibition, Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
2004 NCECA 2004 Invitational: Biomimicry: The Art of Imitating Life, Herron Gallery, Indianapolis, IN
2004 As I See Myself: autobiographical Art, Kentucky Museum of Art and Design, Louisville, KY
2004 Viewpoint: Ceramics 2004, Grossmont College, El Cajon, CA
2004 Two Artist Exhibition with Chris Anteman, The Art Spirit Gallery, Coeur d’Alene, ID
2004 Alter Egos: Voices From Inside, Ohio Art league Gallery, Columbus, OH
2003 St. Petersburg Clay National Best of Show, St. Petersburg Clay, St. Petersburg, FL
2003 Wichita National 2003, Second Place, Wichita Center for the Arts, Wichita, KS
2003 ANA 32, Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT
2003 NCECA National, David Zapf Gallery, San Diego, CA


  • "Come Undone: The Sculptures of Beth Cavener Stichter" by Jen Pappas, Hi-Fructose Volume 26, 2013
  • "Veiled Lures: The Sculptures of Beth Cavener Stichter" by J.L. Shnabel, Hi-Fructose Volume 16, 2012
  • “Innovation & Change: Ceramics from the Arizona State University Art Museum” by Peter Held, Arizona State University Art Museum, 2009, ISBN 0-9817957-3-0
  • “Confrontational Ceramics” by Judith Schwartz, University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2008, ISBN 978-0-8122-4139-6
  • “Clay in Art International Yearbook 06/07” by Kostas Tarkasis (ed.), Clay Art International, 2008
  • “A Human Impulse: Figuration from the Diane and Sandy Besser Collection” by Peter Held, Arizona State University Art Museum, 2008, ISBN 0-9777624-7-5
  • “From the Ground Up: Renwick Craft Invitational 2007” by Jane Milosch and Suzanne Frantz, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2007, ISBN 0-9790678-1-2
  • “Beth Cavener Stichter” by Garth Clark, Garth Clark Gallery, 2006
  • 500 Animals in Clay: Contemporary Expressions of the Animal Form by Joe Bova, Lark Books, November 2006, ISBN 978-1-57990-757-0
  • 500 Figures in Clay: Ceramic Artists Celebrate the Human Form by Veronika Alice Gunter, Lark Books, September 2004, ISBN 978-1-57990-547-7


  1. ^ "Claire Oliver : Beth Cavener Stichter" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-11. 
  2. ^ "Preview of Beth Cavener Stichter’s "Come Undone" | Hi-Fructose Magazine". 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2015-08-11. 
  3. ^ a b Shnabel, J.L. “Veiled Lures: The Sculptures of Beth Cavener Stichter”. Hi-Fructose Magazine Vol. 16: 39.
  4. ^ "Beth Cavener Clark + Del Vecchio | Formerly Garth Clark Gallery". Retrieved 2015-08-11. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Beth Cavener Stichter : Resume" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-11. 
  7. ^ Come Undone: the Sculptures of Beth Cavener Stichter. Hi-Fructose. Volume 26: p.87
  8. ^ Come Undone: the Sculptures of Beth Cavener Stichter. Hi-Fructose. Volume 26: p.93

External links[edit]