Rockface Descent – Leopard
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32” x 48”, acrylic, 1999

There is something about felines that hold a fascination for human beings. Perhaps it is their mystery and grace. Perhaps it is the fact that our primate ancestors greatly feared this quiet predator of the night. Many aspects of our forebears’ lives that made sense for millennia are still a part of our modern psyche.

This painting grows out of those feelings. If you or I were close enough to see this leopard plunge down this cliff, it would be only seconds before the animal would be upon you. I wanted to instill a feeling of discomfort, partly by the unstable plunging action and partly by the proximity, made closer by cutting off the back part and forepaw of the leopard . . . almost as if he is inside your peripheral vision. The other aspect that excited me was the effort to portray the grace and power of the cat through the muscle, bone and sinew showing beneath the familiar glowing pelt.

The idea for the painting came from seeing a large abstract by Clyfford Still, which I saw at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, in 1980. There was a yellow, vertical slash across a flat brown ground. At that time I had no idea it would be a leopard dashing down grey rocks. It is interesting to speculate on the joining in my psyche of the ancestral dread of leopards and abstract image of Clyfford Still.