Praelium means battle or struggle in Latin. This was the title for my BFA thesis exhibition in Kansas City in spring 2011. These pieces all focus on the struggle between humans and nature. In each of these sculptures I have used the combination of an extinct prehistoric animal with human restraints. Creating these powerful animals with seemingly insignificant methods of control reflects back on the power of the natural world, and humanity’s constant struggle to tame it.
One of the most powerful of these prehistoric animals was the Brontotherium. This ancestor of the modern day rhinoceros was one of the largest mammals to exist in the Ogilicene. They stood 8 feet at the shoulder and weighed up to 2 tons. The strange “Y” shaped horn shows the versatility of their evolution.
Another animal that interested me during my thesis was a scavenger called Andrewsarchus. This animal looked a lot like a wolf, but its closest living relative is a sheep. The three foot long jaw bone of Andrewsarchus was all that was discovered of the animal. This gave me an opportunity to invent some anatomy and add elements like porcupine quills to the body. I was interested in restraining the animals at their most powerful point, here I used a muzzle that attempts to hold these massive jaws closed. The muzzle is ceramic as well in this piece, but the rope and porcupine quills were added after firing.
In this piece I played a little bit more with inventing a body for this wolf-like scavenger. I based this pose on images of calf-roping. The gesture allowed for a very dramatic exaggeration of movement. Here I focused on giving the Andrewsarchus legs that were elongated and thin like those of a sheep, with the paws and body of a wolf. The leather strap around the mouth and the twine around the legs are real and were added after firing.
The last animal I focused on for this series was Deinotherium. This is one of the many evolutions of the elephant that preceded the wooly mammoth. The strange tusks on this animal curved backwards and may have been used to strip bark off of large trees. Deinotherium had a much shorter trunk and smaller ears than modern elephants and was the third largest mammal ever to exist. This piece mounted on the wall. The weathered brass ring in the ear is real and was added after firing.
Each of these pieces started with a sketch and a small maquette. These maquettes were enlarged by small degrees until I reached a mid-sized sculpture for the final piece. This process of working allowed me to repeat gestures and anatomy multiple times for each animal and really focus on realism and detail as the pieces got bigger.