Scott Musgrove Honors “Nola” the White Rhino in New Painting

by CaroPosted on

Scott Musgrove’s art has always been connected to conservation or extinction. Featured here on our blog and in issues 2, 8 and 24, his paintings feature lush, highly detailed landscapes and up-close encounters with all manner of strange and beautiful creatures. When he paints animals, he brings them back to life and preserves them into their pristine, natural environment. His new work, a magnificent 40″ x 50″ oil portrait of the rhino “Nola” is more than just a preservation of her image, it’s also an homage to the memory of her species.

Nola was one of five remaining Northern White Rhinos who lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California. She was wild caught in Shambe, located in the southern savanna woodlands of Sudan, and was rescued from the violent poaching that is prevalent in that region when she was only a few years old. When she died last summer, she was too old to breed and there are also no other surviving members of her species that are capable of breeding. Her species was headed for extinction without a doubt. “So I decided to paint her portrait,” Musgrove shared in an email to Hi-Fructose.

“Here’s a little video showing how my “vanishing rhino” painting works. If a person gets too close to this endangered animal, it will ‘disappear’. But if you back off or stay still and patient, it will reappear.” (Source)

Musgrove’s portrait of Nola took the artist nearly five months to complete in between traveling and other projects, and after painstaking trials and studies. “I wanted to show the effect of humans on some of these endangered animals,” he says. “To help illustrate how quickly so many species are vanishing, I devised a way to make that happen with my painting of Nola.” The painting is unique in that Musgrove has embedded a motion sensor into a special frame, so that when the viewer gets too close to it, the painting remarkably appears to vanish.

“Here’s a little video of the Nola sketch.” (Source)

“That sensor cuts the power to the ‘smart glass’ in the frame. This glass is clear when it has a current running through it, but if you cut the power it turns to white and obscures the painting. So, hopefully the viewer feels the immediate effect they have on the animal they are approaching. If the viewer retreats, the painting will reappear. Or, if they stay still and are patient, the painting will return,” he explains. “In tribute, I wanted to paint a portrait of her but also somehow illustrate the loss of her species.”

Catch Scott Musgrove’s work in Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose Exhibition at Virginia MOCA, opening this weekend.

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