ASHEBORO, NC – A life-size bronze sculpture of an ocelot family is the newest addition to the North Carolina Zoo’s ocelot habitat area, providing a striking welcome to the environment and new photo location for guests visiting the colorful carnivores.

Asheboro-based artist Brian Brown sculpted an ocelot mother and her two kittens. After casting the piece in bronze at Carolina Bronze in Seagrove, N.C., Brown then delivered his artwork to North Carolina Zoo Design technician Sean Ross. Ross created a base for Brown’s three ocelots, tag-teaming to create an interactive piece of artwork meant for guests to enjoy while visiting the real ocelots pouncing and bouncing only a few feet away.

Brown, who sits on the Board of Directors at the Randolph Arts Guild, spent time studying the ocelots at the Zoo and visiting the animal experts who care for them. This research was invaluable to capture the essence of the dapple-coated cats, he said.

“The composition of the ocelot sculpture is made up of a mother and two juvenile ocelots,” Brown said. “The mother is meant to be the most stoic figure and the central focus of the arrangement. The two juvenile ocelots are posed in a way that represents they’re playing around the other and also showcasing completely different stances and facets of the personalities of the ocelot.”

One of the ocelot kittens is poised on the rock base in a hunting stance, while the other is playfully leaping over its mother, he added. The dynamic and sinuous form of the felines and the unique technique Brown used to depict the ocelot’s patterned coat invite guests to touch and explore the bronze artwork. The North Carolina Zoo allows guests to interact with most of the outdoor sculptures around the 500-acre park as a way to inspire people to care about wildlife and wild places. 

The completed sculpture, entitled “The Family That Preys Together,” was made possible through a sponsorship by NC Zoo Society members Bob and Bonnie Meeker.

Brown, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in art and concentration in sculpture, has several pieces of work on display in the area, including the Carolina Bronze Sculpture Garden.

For the base, Ross first sculpted a maquette, then built a themed structure out of steel rebar and mesh and finished it with carved and painted concrete. Ross created a structure that would not only hold Brown’s bronze, but would be sturdy enough to withstand thousands of guests a year climbing on the rocks and sitting next to the cats.

Combining artwork and engineering, Brown and Ross have provided North Carolina Zoo guests an opportunity to make new connections to wildlife through art.