Theme/Style – Modernism, Surrealism, figurative, landscapes, genre scenes
Media – Oils, casein, tempera, watercolor, sculpture, charcoal, graphite, lithographs, etchings, wood engravings, tapestries
Artistic Focus – Adept at conveying feeling and cultural ideas, and at imbuing her own personality into her drawings and prints, Zena Kavin created work that was often playful, satiric or irreverent in nature and populated with fantastical images of people and animals. A fine sculptor as well as a skilled draftsperson, Kavin produced works that revealed her social consciousness and expressed a high degree of respect for her subjects, whether in her strong and sensitive portrayals of the figure or her genre scenes of the daily life and interactions of adults and children.
Career Highlights –
- Zena Kavin was born in Berkeley, California in 1912. She studied at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and with Aleksei Kravchenko in Moscow, where she and her family lived briefly.
- Though Kavin was a resident of Northern California most of her life, she spent approximately four years in New Mexico in the late 1930s and early 1940s, where she worked as an artist with the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project.
- During her time in New Mexico, Kavin’s sculpture was included in the New Mexico art exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair; and in 1940 she created two frescoes as part of the kiva murals for the Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo, New Mexico.
- In 1940 Kavin married artist and teacher Jon Cornin, and the couple settled in Oakland, California. The couple frequently collaborated, and using the pseudonym “Corka,” the Cornins produced cartoons and illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker, and Collier’s.
- Kavin also produced woodcuts for hand-pressed books, and illustrated her husband Jon Cornin’s The Painter’s Credo: Selected Notes.
- A member of the San Francisco Art Association, Kavin was included in many of the group’s exhibitions between 1935 and 1951.
- Kavin exhibited in the inaugural exhibition for the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1935, as well as at the California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego in 1935; the Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco in 1939; and the California State Fair in 1948.
- Kavin’s work is in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
- Zena Kavin Cornin passed away in Oakland, California in 2003.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.