Soul to Soul

Soul to Soul

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48" x 60" unframed 

55" x 67" framed

© SHELLEY HESSE 2017

watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and pastel on paper
 

Soul to Soul is different from my other animal studies in that it's particularly dreamlike, and is a piece that I did dream. It's not a new concept to portray tiny people. Gulliver's Travels being a classic piece of literature that's often the first to come to mind. This piece, however, doesn't intend to show tiny people, but rather an enormous zebra. The men, the hunters, are life-size, whereas the zebra is giant. The men have wandered into a dreamy jungle of imagined leaves and trees, and come across a zebra too large to take down, too massive to dominate. It's the hunter's dream to come across such a beast, but therein lies the dilemma of being unable to overpower it and drag it home as the ultimate trophy. Since it is a dream, it acts as a metaphor, the zebra's soul looms so much larger than the hunters' souls. It tenderly bows its head to look one of the men in the eye. Each man has his own set of emotions, but they are all stunned with the beauty and immensity of the animal and the animal's soul. I have always seen animals as larger than life. Their souls have always loomed so much larger than their physical bodies. This piece is an homage to such animals with such tremendous souls who are so often slaughtered without a care in the world or the slightest glance at what is being destroyed.

Portrayed is the Mountain Zebra, a threatened species which is native to south-western Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. All Mountain Zebras are boldly striped in very dark brown or black, and no two look exactly alike. The whole body is striped, except for the belly. This is a Cape Mountain zebra, so its belly is white, rather than slightly buff. Adult Mountain Zebras reach a head-and-body length of just under 7 feet to 8 1/2 feet, weighing between 450 and 820 pounds. The Cape Mountain zebra exhibits sexual dimorphism with the females being larger than the males. Their preferred habitat is mountainous terrain with a wide variety of grass species. If grass cannot be found, they'll eat bark, twigs, leaves, and roots. They prefer small family groups to large herds- only a single stallion with one to five mares, together with their offspring. Mares give birth to one foal at a time, and that foal feeds on its mother's milk for about a year and can stay with her for as long as 3 years.

Historically, they could be found across the entire length of the escarpments along the west coast of southern Africa and in the fold mountain region in the south. Hunters exterminated them throughout the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, and the main threats to the species today are habitat loss, hunting, and persecution. A zebra produces a good amount of meat so poaching them for food has severely decreased their numbers. The species is listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. In the 1930s it was nearly extinct with only about 100 Cape mountain zebras remaining in the world. However, vigorous conservation efforts from national parks, nature reserves, and the European Zoos Endangered Species Program have brought the number up to about 2,700.

"The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.”

-Joseph Wood Krutch