‘Thinking With Animals’ exhibit in Canton is worth seeing

‘Thinking With Animals’ exhibit in Canton is worth seeing

Animals have long been used by artists to express special ideas and emotions. Their anthropomorphic qualities have been featured in storytelling in literature, theater, music and visual art.

“Thinking With Animals,” on view through March 5 at the Canton Museum of Art, is a huge show of over 50 artists who primarily work in clay. The artists come from a “diverse representation of gender identity, culture, backgrounds, and career stages,” and they all use animals as a “way to examine ideas that may be difficult to discuss or understand in any other form.”

This is a powerhouse of a show with a number of incredibly gifted artists.

Beth Cavener, in particular, has an innate ability to express ideas and emotions. Her influence is strong and her work is admired and collected around the world. 

Cavener’s “Shadow Partner”is a large-scale sculpture of a rabbit entwined with rope and presented on a steel stand. The rabbit, which is white with gray tips on its feet, ears and tail, has a knowing, almost-playful expression and the thick black rope helps create movement and tension. One of the most distinctive elements of a Cavener sculpture is the treatment of the surface. Here the artist creates a richly textured element that heightens the already expressive and idealized depiction of an animal doing something in a playful, evocative way.

Another highlight of the exhibit is “Snail Pile (green)” by Bethany Krull. This work features exactly what the title implies: a pile of snails with green shells. The pile forms a rounded mound, and each snail body is depicted with a creamy color and bumpy texture.

The work evokes a visceral reaction — especially if you have any familiarity with gastropods. This excellently made sculpture is amazing in its detail and viscous beauty despite being just a pile of snails.

“Drop Down and Get your Eagle On (Flap Your Wings)” is a 2019 sculpture by Georgia artist Sharon Norwood. The work features a bluish-black glazed bird intended to symbolize the American eagle on top of a stack of Savannah gray bricks with the words “Black Lives Matter” written on the sides.

Savannah gray bricks are terra-cotta bricks that date back to the 1800s. They were hand-formed by enslaved Africans imprisoned on the Hermitage plantation. As the artist explains: “The work investigates our relationship to black labor and provides a space for collaboration, and deepened conversation about our collective relationships to race and identity in America.”

This piece is gorgeous in its subtle, strong and commanding nature. A brick can be seen as a metaphor for many aspects of society. This sculpture is akin to a monument to the basic structural issues that Americans confront every day. 

“Midnight” is a 2017 sculpture made of low-fire ceramic and molted feathers by St. Louis artist Lindsay Pichaske. It is a sculpted deer head covered with dark feathers and metallic greens and blues.  Pichaske explains that she uses “the animal figure to explore empathy and sentiency, and to challenge the perceived order and comfortable classifications of life.” 

The piece is slightly disorienting because it is covered in feathers. It creates an immediate emotional reaction when viewed. The animal is all at once beautiful, magical, sad and maybe even depressed as its eyes look down and away as if it could possibly be feeling some kind of shame for ending up stuck on a wall.

“Thinking with Animals” is a comprehensive exhibit that features many of the most important and influential artists making sculpture today.  The works range from the beautiful and refined to the gritty and expressive. It’s a terrific exhibit, worthy of traveling to Canton to see.

Anderson Turner is director of the Kent State University School of Art collection and galleries. Contact him at haturner3@gmail.com.


Exhibit: “Thinking With Animals” through March 5

Where: Canton Museum Art, 1001 Market Ave. N.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

More info: 330-453-7666 or https://www.cantonart.org/

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‘Thinking With Animals’ exhibit in Canton is worth seeing

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