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WPL features zoo animal artwork

By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Ten years ago, Kerri Fitzgerald was a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo. Now, she takes her love of animals and uses it as inspiration for her paintings. Fitzgerald has been working the latter half of the decade on oil painting. Transitioning from acrylic, the artist learned the medium and never looked back. Her exhibit “Wild Expressions” at the Walpole public library has drawn considerable attention and for good reason.

“Wild Expressions” includes oil paintings of various zoo animals. From lemurs to African wild dogs, Fitzgerald captures the essence of each animal through blended layers of color and exceptional technique. An additional element to the exhibit, she acknowledged the need for enrichment in the zoo. “Enrichment is simulating something you’d do in life. You’re learning and it breaks up the day. The animals had a choice to paint.” She pointed to an example of Cleo, a happy hippopotamus. “I love Cleo’s footprint. I worked with her so closely. We got her when she had never painted when she was young. I’d set paints up in her indoor pool. I put plastic on the ground with paint. She liked it, it was squishy like her mud. I gave her a treat and used clicker training…. It didn’t take long, she’s very smart.” Fitzgerald shared. Alongside her portrait of Cleo, the pygmy hippo created her own masterpiece of a colorful footprint.

Another impressive creature is Okie, the gorilla. Fitzgerald regards him as the number one painter. “He would pick up colors and just paint all day!” Chimps and gorillas have multiple works on display. Each creature paints differently. For instance, tegus have their underside painted and roll around on canvases. However, primates fingerpaint just like we do!

Fitzgerald was glad to explain facts about each animal, her experience with them, and the artwork that correlated with them. Passionate about art and animals, she currently takes art lessons with Rosemarie Morelli in town. “Wild Expressions” is sure to captivate any viewer. The exhibit ran at the WPL through March 31.

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