Zebras and Hyenas
183.7 cm x 213.1 cm (72 5/16 in. x 83 7/8 in.)
(Houston, Texas, 1951 - )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on linen canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Michener Acquisitions Fund, 1985
In Melissa Miller’s allegorical narratives, animal behavior mimics human foibles and follies. In this vividly expressive work completed early in her career, panicked hyenas have driven a herd of zebras into a stampede in response to a huge fire raging in the distance. Chaos ensues.
One can almost hear the sounds of the animals’ terror, and smell the dust and acrid smoke in the claustrophobic scene. Teeming with sensory alerts, the lushly painted surface and the complex formal harmonies and contrasts of color and shape reinforce the image’s urgency. Miller poses tough painterly problems—all those stripes!—in a dramatic tableau that calls attention to catastrophic forces both within and beyond human control.