“Only when we understand can we care
Only when we care will we help
Only when we help shall they be saved “
IN A FEW WORDS….
I’m the only person I know who is a painter of wild animals I know intimately, an experienced primate caregiver, volunteer and storyteller, with a 30-year corporate background. This gives me a unique niche as an artist dedicated to wildlife conservation and helping primates.
I’ve created a body of work, portraits of orphaned primates I have cared for over the years, along with their stories and voices, to draw attention to their plight and show the world how close to us they are. I call this collection “Witness.” It refers to the fact that most of these innocent creatures saw their mothers killed. And it refers to my having been a witness to their plight and the cruelty of humans.
I’ve also had the privilege to observe at close range their personalities, intelligence, emotions and growth. Each one has a story – tiny talapoin monkey Yoda, the peacemaker with the mighty spirit; Sunshine the baby baboon laughing nonstop, wrestling with his monkey friend Abida; and mandrill Maggie May with her seductive gaze.
My portraits are figurative to celebrate the subjects’ natural beauty and diversity, and portray them in a way that exudes their individuality. I want people to look into their eyes, and realize how complex, how sentient, and how very lovely and unique these beings are. To that end, my work is typically large scale, the size inviting the viewer more boldly into dialogue. When a huge intelligent face is returning your gaze, evocative of dignity or pathos or love, it can be a startling and emotional experience. There is direct engagement. We recognize ourselves in them and hopefully, traces of our own humanity.
How can you allow harm to come to one whose soul you can see in their eyes, and they yours? How can you not be moved to want to protect them?
That is what I hope my portraits evoke.
HOW MY PRIMATE PAINTING JOURNEY BEGAN
I fell in love with a monkey…
a fragile, frightened blue-faced infant, who fit in the palm of my hand. Her name was Maasai. It was 2007 and I was volunteering for the first time at Ape Action Africa primate sanctuary in Cameroon. My job was to care for her. When she looked up at me, I knew life would never be the same.
At the time, I’d spent 29 years as an interior designer and project manager in a global firm. I took three months off from hectic New York City to volunteer at an ape and monkey sanctuary in the jungle. Deforestation and exploding human populations are wiping out the non-human primate families in the world’s last rainforests. For these vulnerable displaced creatures orphaned due to escalating bushmeat hunting and the illegal pet trade, sanctuaries provide rehabilitation, care and a safe haven.
During that transformative summer, I not only raised three infant monkeys, I painted signs for the sanctuary. The manager asked if I could “paint a monkey.” Despite having no formal training in painting, I rendered colorful Maasai. My primate portrait career – and my calling – were born. I’ve been caring for them, painting them, and beautifying sanctuaries ever since. Once I learned first-hand of their plight, I left my career and shifted my focus to help, with a profound sense there was no time to waste.
My art is the direct manifestation of my intimate knowledge and intense love of my subjects. It’s deeply imbedded in me to share what I find exceptional. To connect, move people, tell stories. I’ve realized It’s through my paintings that I am my best storyteller.
In 2016 I was accepted into Artists for Conservation and into the Society of Animal Artists as a Signature member. Besides painting and fundraising for the sanctuaries, giving talks about the primates and the art they inspire is a passion of mine. I’ve done presentations on four continents, to schools, retirement communities, corporate and community groups, and volunteers. And every chance I get, I return to the sanctuaries and my muses.