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Vervet Monkey Female with Young by Andrew Denman <Back to Thumbnails "Icon"
20 x 16"
Acrylic & 23KT Gold Leaf on Cradled Board
Vervet Monkey, Female with Young

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I encountered this Vervet Monkey mother and infant in Diani on the South Swahili Coast in March of 2014 during my second visit to Kenya. I was struck by the sensitivity of her protective gesture and by the almost unnervingly anthropomorphic stare of her pink and naked-faced offspring. I have often times drawn or painted animal subjects in a context that deliberately makes reference to religious imagery. This is never intended to parody anyone’s faith, rather to imbue the subject with the iconic significance it deserves and to symbolize the awe and wonder I feel whenever I step into the wild, where the trees make the roof of the cathedral, light filtering through leaves is the stained glass, and the sacred earth is the alter of worship. In this world, the Vervet becomes the Madonna, and her fragile infant the savior of an imperiled natural world.

I drew further inspiration from the amazing landscape of Tsavo, seen here in the background. Staring out across the great expanses of space from the top of Lion’s Bluff, it is one of those rare places on earth where one can still imagine being the first person ever to have seen it. The formalized “frame” in which the image is set was heavily influenced by the Madonna and Child and Annunciation paintings in the collection of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, one of my favorite museums and a fixture in my life since childhood. Despite lacking in any religious upbringing, I have always found this early Christian imagery to be intensely beautiful and moving. The Legion has several pieces from the early to mid-1400’s in their collection, the compositions of which are dominated by a clear and vibrant pink. The color palette of this piece, as well as the use of gilding, is directly inspired by this luminous and evocative palette. Without being too heavy-handed, the stylized palm frond motif alludes to Christ’s martyrdom, as do the sunbirds. They stand in for the familiar European Goldfinch, which often appears in images of the Christ-Child. Though it is not visible in this piece, the sunbirds have a bright red chest, the suitable Kenyan counterpart to the Goldfinch’s red forehead, fabled to be the blood of Christ that stained its feathers when the humble finch plucked away thorns from the crown of the dying savior.

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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