Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hyena project Part 1: the Commission

   It is not every day that I receive correspondence asking me to create a life-size African mammal, let alone a popularly reviled creature that most people seem to consider downright ugly.
    In popular myth, hyenas are portrayed as thieving cowards who only scavenge for food. Research has shown Spotted Hyenas are, in fact, major predators who frequently hunt animals many times their own size. As it turns out, lions often steal hyena kills. 
Hyenas have a unique physiognomy: from their sloping backs and stunted back legs that adapt them for highly efficient long distance running, to large, powerful necks which allow them to bring down large prey, and incredibly powerful jaws able to crush large bones, hyenas have evolved to fit a very specific niche in the food chain.
     In captivity, hand-raised hyenas can be amazingly gentle and affectionate. Many years ago, in Chattanooga, TN, a hyena was rescued from poor conditions to become a long-time resident. This much-beloved hyena's name was Frankie. The sculpture I was asked to create is a character study of Frankie, commissioned by a friend of the zoo who knew him well. 

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