In a reception on Monday at Brown-Lupton University Union, renowned Western artist, Woodrow Blagg, unveiled his massive mixed-graphite drawing, “The Rescue.” It masterfully captures a team of TCU students on the Amakhala Game Reserve assisting in rhino procedures performed by South African wildlife vet, Will Fowlds. The 16-foot, hyper-realistic artwork was commissioned by TCU Alumn Larry Brogdon after a trip to
South Africa where he had a life-changing rhino experience. It will remain on loan to TCU for an indeterminate period of time.
To accurately capture the experience in his piece, Blagg visited South Africa with Mike Slattery, TCU’s director of the Institute for Environmental Studies, and a group of students. “He was transfixed. During his 10-day stay at Amakhala, he came out with the students on all procedures, but he also spent some ‘alone’ time with our rangers among the rhino crashes. On the actual procedure, he simply stayed ‘in-the- moment,’ and I think that emotion and connection come across in the drawing,” Slattery says.
Blagg’s piece was a labor of love. He emphasizes that what you see hanging on the wall never actually existed. “It’s a culmination of many photos I took in South Africa. It was an exhaustive process. I have files for every person in the drawing, with 30-40 pictures in each one. Deciding on the assemblage took seven and a half months. I started looking at artists like Caravaggio and his painting, “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” for inspiration in the composition. Over time, the drawing took on a life of its own,” Blagg says.
Slattery hopes that the artwork will bring further awareness to TCU’s Rhino Initiative. “I think those that see it will realize that the piece captures the mission statement of the university – Horned Frogs, being global citizens and leading from the front. It’s a piece about our commitment to the natural world, and it is a piece that shows people ‘doing’ – actually helping in the fight to save our natural heritage,” he says.
About the TCU Rhino Initiative
The TCU Rhino Initiative was launched in 2014 by Mike Slattery, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IES). Teaming up with Will Fowlds, South African wildlife vet and rhino conservationist, IES helps save the rhino and ensures its long-term survival. In South Africa, rhinos are being brutally poached at a rate of more than three per day. IES stands ready to help on several fronts, from organizing reduction demand campaigns and raising public awareness, to supporting protection and rescue initiatives on the ground, where poached rhinos can be rehabilitated and eventually function again in wild habitats. As part of the IES Biodiversity and Human Development Study abroad course, TCU students have the opportunity to travel to South Africa and participate in rhino procedures.