Bryan Hollerbach, Ladue News | March 8, 2021
A powerful mix of acrylic and spray paint on canvas, St. Louisan David Ruggeri’s Rhino strongly reflects not only his inspiration by graffiti but also his ethos as a conservationist.
“I’m a firm believer in conserving our resources, protecting our environment and protecting our wildlife,” relates Ruggeri, whose website notes he holds a Ph.D., an MBA and a master’s degree. “There are so many species of animals that are endangered or extinct due to overhunting, loss of habitat and other contributing factors that can easily be avoided.”
He calls the 36- by 24-inch painting shown here, whose creation dates from 2019-20, “one of five paintings in my Endangered Species series. Others in the series include Shark, Bison, Monarch and Leopard.”
Like those other canvases, Rhino features a visually explosive palette and visually arresting patterns, as well as textural brushwork that borders on the tactile; at a glance, one can almost feel the coarse thickness of the creature’s skin.
“When painting Rhino, I thought about how very few live in the wild due to poaching and reduction of habitats,” Ruggeri states. “Western black and white rhinos have recently become extinct, and several other species are critically endangered due to them being lucrative targets for the illegal trade of their horns.
“This painting took me over one year to get it to where I liked it. I attempted to showcase the beauty and strength of these animals while bringing some attention to how humans have negatively impacted and threatened their existence.”
Ruggeri’s support of conservation efforts, moreover, has extended beyond the easel. Over time, for instance, he has donated to such charities as the Washington, D.C.-based World Wildlife Fund, Valley Park’s own Wild Bird Sanctuary and manifold animal rescue clinics.
Ruggeri also has created a limited-edition signed print titled Save Bristol Bay, which, amusingly, spotlights a cartoon character reminiscent of Snidely Whiplash, the villain in the 1969-70 ABC TV animated adventures of the Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right. Proceeds from the sale of Ruggeri’s print will support that secluded Alaskan inlet, whose pristine beauty and piscatorial culture a proposed pebble mine has been endangering.
Otherwise, artistically, Ruggeri has stayed busy, with works of his appearing in gallery exhibitions in both Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as in nationally recognized art fairs in the metro area and in Atlanta, Detroit and Miami, among other cities.