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Bison by Andrew Denman
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"American Heritage"
24 x 30" Acrylic on Cradled Board, 2015
American Bison

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I was inspired to paint “American Heritage” after a visit to the National Bison Refuge in Montana; as they wallowed in the dust and lumbered across orange and blue oceans of grass and sage, the bison became great, primordial shapes: black, violet, and blue where cast in shadow; orange, brown, and buff where kissed by the raking light of dawn. Encountering a herd of North America’s largest land-dwelling mammal is like looking back in time to the Pleistocene, and it makes one feel humble and awed, as if there is some remnant of cultural memory in all of us that harkens back to a time when human existence was entirely dependent on following a mobile food supply, much as modern day wolves follow the great elk migration across the frozen wastes of the high north.

But one needn’t go back to prehistory to find great herds of bison. There used to be tens of millions of bison roaming the Great Plains of America until rampant over-hunting in the 1800’s reduced their numbers to a scant five hundred or so. Though bison long ago recovered to the point that they are no longer an endangered species, they remain a potent symbol of the speed and terrifying ease with which a plentiful and highly dominant animal can be destroyed by man.

In “American Heritage,” a lone bison, painted in high realism and with great care, stands alone, superimposed on a field of static bison cut-outs. They march back and forth, frozen in time, each one a marker for hundreds of thousands slaughtered. As an overall composition, the piece reads like a patchwork flag, raised in salute to the bison, a vital part of our natural heritage as Americans, to the men and women who saved it from extinction, and to the future generations who will make sure there are still wild places for bison- and other great beasts- to roam. Visually, it is an exercise in pattern and repetition; the wallpaper-like background is a systematized impression of a bison herd, rather than a description, but by its very anonymity, in contrast to the particularity of the central image, it suggests something about how too many people view wildlife, as objects rather than entities.

Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California –based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
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