Ice Age Goddess is a celebration by Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh of the so-called “Venus” figures of the Upper Paleolithic, small portable sculptures crafted by Cro-Magnon hunters and gatherers between 40,000 and 15,000 BCE. Ranging in size between 1.4″ and 8″, they are the first three-dimensional representations of the female form ever discovered, the most well known being the Venus of Willendorf. Replicating the originals in polymer and bronze but enlarging them so their unique features can best be perceived, Kavanagh carved 12 sculptures for the exhibition. Although the purpose of these figurines can never be definitively known, she sides with anthropologists who believe they symbolized the “Mother Goddess,” nurturer and sustainer of life during the exceptionally harsh conditions of the Glacial Maximum when half of Europe was covered with ice. Following the “Mother Goddess” interpretation, Kavanagh chose to display the figures in fantasy sea shells because shells have been used by artists since the Renaissance to symbolize birth and regeneration.
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