Drawing, Painting

Q&A: Dorothy Kavka


“I believe in a primordial sisterhood of women that links them beyond social and territorial boundaries." — Dorothy Kavka


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Dorothy Kavka sees herself as an artist who is a chronicler of women: “…both in the roles they are made to assume within their societies and their historical reality. I believe in a primordial sisterhood of women that links them beyond social and territorial boundaries. The ‘other,’ or cultural diversity becomes the guise they assume that is demanded by their fathers, husbands, religious leaders, and lawmakers. My work explores the tension created by the existence of these forces on every woman.”

Kavka was accepted into a prestigious Women's Gallery Show in Chicago and in exhibits at the Kaviar Gallery and the Gallery Janjobe in Louisville. Recently, she won first place at the Jewish Community Center's 12th Annual Mazin Art Exhibition, juried by Joey Yates from the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.

"Mood" by Dorothy Kavka

"Mood" by Dorothy Kavka

When did you first think you would be an artist?

I always knew I would be an artist. Even as a young child, I was always drawing, I took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago (giving up ballet because my parents could not afford both classes), and saved a few of the drawings from those classes; it still amazes me that I could do such detailed work at that age.

Who or what inspires you now?

Knowing that people like what I do inspires me. I just won first place at the Mazin Juried Art Exhibit, and that was a real thrill.

You describe yourself as a “chronicler of women” as regards how they are viewed by society. How do you feel your representation of the human figure captures that?

I find that although I have a number of studies of men, my focus has always been on women. That may be because in the workshops I took, we usually had women models. Then again, I guess I just find women more interesting.

Among the images here are nude studies of women. How does your work avoid some of the objectification of the female form that is still so common? 

I don't know. I just draw and paint what I feel at the time I do the work.

"Nude X" by Dorothy Kavka

"Nude X" by Dorothy Kavka

What are you reading right now?

I am reading a book about George Washington and about to read “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell, who also wrote “Cloud Atlas”. I was an English teacher, and I do enjoy a good book.

Tell us about an important moment of transition for you as an artist?

I think that it happened as an adult, when I was able to start taking workshops with well-known Chicago artists, such as Ed Paschke and Lillian Desow Fishbein. They never tried to "fix" my work by drawing or painting over them, but would offer suggestions that allowed me to discover for myself what I need to do.

"Garden Party" by Dorothy Kavka

"Garden Party" by Dorothy Kavka

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

I need to do art; it is a calling that I cannot ignore.

Has your style changed or evolved over the years? If so what do you think
influenced this?

Yes, my art has changed over the years. Remember that I started art classes when I was a teenager. However, I did not begin to really take my art seriously until I started workshops with Chicago artists. At first I was doing realistic drawings and paintings - which were good, but somehow not fulfilling. Then, I began to work into them, changing the focus, and suddenly I found my stride. 

Does art have a purpose? If so what is it?

This may sound trite, but I feel that art is the one thing that makes life enjoyable. 

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Age: 76
Education: BA in English Language & Literature, University of Chicago; MA in English; University of Wisconsin; studied at Art Institute of Chicago and in private workshops with Ed Paschke and Lillian Desow Fishbein

"Nude III" by Dorothy Kavka

"Nude III" by Dorothy Kavka

"Nude II" by Dorothy Kavka

"Nude II" by Dorothy Kavka

"Ballerinas" by Dorothy Kavka

"Ballerinas" by Dorothy Kavka

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