Cornelia KavanaghOpen 15
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, 1940.pteropods

Lives and works in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

Sea Butterfly Effect: Climate Change and Artistic Metamorphosis

In THE PTEROPOD PROJECT: charismatic microfauna, Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh grants a little known life form, whose very existence is threatened by ocean acidification, its day in the sun. The artist takes the minimal components of the pteropod and sets them in off-balanced arrangements, and this torsion away from the central axis lends a visceral feeling of motion in the viewer.

Kavanagh’s pteropods are ancient and elemental forms whose ocean existence is a reminder of our own watery origins and our primal consciousness. In suspended animation, the figures could be protean spirits of the deep, winged messengers from the ocean world. By reaching out to a place of mystery, the artist turns inward to her subconscious reserve in which the ocean symbolizes the Great Mother. Relying on intuition, she interprets and invents these tiny beings as a kind of dharmic act – releasing into understanding and sympathy.

While partaking of the heritage of Surrealism and Kandinsky, whose biomorphic shapes are luminal and unstable, Kavanagh’s biomorphic forms incorporate pathos in a way that reflects changes in our awareness. What once seemed limitless and eternal now is dwindling, with potential consequences for multitudes of marine life.

Reaching back into history, Kavanagh elevates the microscopic pteropod through her fluency with the world’s sculptural traditions. Yet, it is her sensitivity to the world around us, that makes these sculptures so poignant, for they were imagined and carved by a woman who knows the sounds of the changing tides. Creating shapes that resonate within our collective memory, Kavanagh urges us to take notice. It is her offering as an artist.

text by
Stephanie Grilli

photo credit
Sergio Martucci