Offensive Line, 1997
oil on belgian linen
30 x 90 in
(76.2h x 228.6w cm)
The idea for the paintings, “The Defensive Line” and “The Offensive Line,” originated in the titles, and having played football, I remember the feeling of lining up against a lineman that outweighed me by 75 pounds. African buffalo seemed to be the best candidate for that role, given their bad attitude and helmet-shaped horns. On safari in 1994, I came across a pride of lions and a herd of buffalo engaged in such a test of wills. Positioned 30 yards apart, they began to size each other up for what would be the world’s greatest confrontation.
These nomadic lions in “The Offensive Line” are not yet mature enough to be pride males. Most are probably brothers or closely related. They possess a cocky attitude, feeling indestructible in their group of seven. I’ve seen large groups of males such as these on several occasions while on safari. Being immature cats, they do not yet possess the wisdom to clearly understand that there is easier pray elsewhere.
The lions were waiting for a moment when the buffalo would make themselves vulnerable, exposing one of their young or showing signs of injury. Watching with intense interest, it was as if the lions were actually plotting a strategy.
The buffalo in “The Defensive Line” make for a very formidable opponent. The biggest bulls face the cats with an overwhelming sense of power. African buffalo weigh in at approximately 2,000 pounds. The lions weigh approximately 400 to 450 pounds, but they compensate for their smaller size with their ferociousness and attitude. Thirteen yellow-billed oxpeckers can be found among the branches. They remind me of the fans in the stands, hustling about, readying themselves for the incredible showdown.