Born in Berkeley, California in 1912, Kavin has spent her whole life in Northern California except for a few years in New Mexico in the 1930s. In 1940 she married artist Jon Cornin and with him, under the name Corka, produced cartoons for the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post.

Kavin's work has primarily consisted of figurative works on paper but she has also done engraving for books and some sculpture. Judgment of Souls is typical of Kavin's print work where fantastic animals with human attributes cavort around the picture plane. She often illustrates mock ceremonies that are dark in their implications but festive in mood. This image is more static and somber than most. Fish and birdlike creatures play a prominent role in her surreal scenes.

Kavin's narrative images encourage viewers to decode them. More than likely this image has its roots in an Egyptian myth that illustrates the importance of an open and balanced heart. Here the heart is measured against a feather. In the myth, if one does not integrate and learn from life's experiences, the heart is too light; if one holds all life's experience in and does not share, the heart is too heavy. The significance of this measurement is evident on the face of this creature who waits anxiously for the outcome.

Later in her life, Kavin has turned her attention to works in tapestry. Between 1935 and 1951 Zena Kavin was included in eight San Francisco Art Association exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art.


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Zena Kavin (b 1912) United States

ZENA KAVIN

Judgment of Souls

date unknown, lithograph, 2/20, 14.5” x 11”