The Great Apes Come To SOHA Gallery, And They Paint Masterpieces

 In Culture

SOHA Studio & Gallery, in association with the Saint Louis Zoo’s great ape keepers present The Great Apes Paint Exhibit and Fundraiser, showcasing great ape-produced masterpieces. The opening reception kicks off Friday, Nov. 8 from 6pm to 10pm at SOHA.

Professionally framed, original works of art by the zoo’s Fragile Forest/Jungle of the Apes’ residents will be exhibited and for sale in a variety of sizes and will include information about the artists. Beautifully photographed portraits of the ape artists by photographer Jess Dewes will also be for sale. As an added enticement, a significant portion of the proceeds from the art sale goes directly to conservation efforts for wild great apes.

Portrait of a Great Ape. Photographer Jess Dewes

Portrait of a Great Ape. Photo by Jess Dewes


The fun continues on Sunday, Nov. 10, from 11am to 4pm for Family Day, when children and adults can enjoy games and crafts, including painting with their toes as the apes do and other ape enrichment programs. For those curious about great apes, zookeepers will be on hand to answer questions about these magnificent beasts.

Great Ape Painting 1

Known for using everyday mundanity as a jumping off point for exhaustive philosophic exploration, here the artist—also a gourmand—draws inspiration from julianned tri-colored peppers. The aerial swirling quality draws the viewer in as in a vortex, leaving us breathless, until all that remains is the question, what is love? The depiction of romance is clear, and follows a common plot line: Boy gets girl (yellow), boy loses girl (red), boy gets girl (orange). Courtesy SOHA Gallery


If you really want to learn about the great apes, or own one of their masterpieces, plan to attend a free conservation lecture by Dr. Crickette Sanz on Nov. 13 at 7pm. Dr. Sanz is an assistant professor in the department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Zookeepers will also be on hand to answer questions. By purchasing a painting, attendees can help support the great apes.


Great Ape Painting 2

This classically-trained artist draws from the palette of Degas while executing the work with abstract infantilism—a technique he learned while studying in Borneo. The artist’s work has been described as “minimalist complexity,” as in this work which depicts the earth as a rich globe, but one full of holes and turmoil. What matters here is not any implied meaning or message, but rather the composition, surface, and the relationship between the paint and space. Courtesy of SOHA Gallery.


So why do the apes need help? According to SOHA Studio and Gallery, the Saint Louis Zoo’s Fragile Forest and Jungle of the Apes provide safe habitats for chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas not only at the zoo, but helps apes in the wild as well. At one time, more than one million Chimpanzees lived in Africa.

Today, perhaps only 150,000 survive. Scientists estimate hundreds of thousands of Sumatran orangutans could be found 10,000 years ago throughout Southeast Asia—even in southern China. Today, only 10-25,000 still survive. All types of Western Lowland Gorillas are in serious danger of extinction in the wild. Western gorillas number only about 110,000. Eastern gorillas are even more rare: one subspecies, the eastern lowland gorilla, numbers only about 10,000, while the mountain gorilla subspecies numbers just a few hundred. And they can paint.

SOHA Studio and Gallery is located at 4915 Macklind Avenue. 314-497-5202

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