The Texas Memorial Museum unveiled the newest addition to the university’s collection of public art on Sept. 30 with a bronze saber-toothed tiger cat created by the museum’s exhibit designer John Maisano.
The sculpture sits at the east entrance of the Texas Memorial Museum. It depicts a large male saber-toothed cat and is 1.25 times life size, illustrating the strength and ferocity of the animal that roamed North America and went extinct about 10,000 years ago.
Maisano, who was chosen during an open call for submissions, did extensive research to ensure the accuracy of his statue, but also added some styling to match the museum’s Art Deco building.
“I had to study a lot of anatomy of recent cats and the skeletons of saber cats in our museum and from the La Brea Museum in Los Angeles,” Maisano said. “I worked closely with paleontologists here to get the anatomy correct.”
Ed Theriot, director of the Texas Natural Science Center, said the museum wanted to create a sculpture as a way to urge visitors to come inside and see what the museum has to offer.
“While the building itself is a beautiful piece of architecture, it doesn’t tell you what is in it, and the name ‘Texas Memorial Museum’ may make you think we are a cultural history museum,” he said. “As one admirer of the statue told us, ‘It tells me there is a great natural history museum beyond the doors.’”
Theriot also said she hopes the statue inspires children to learn and keep nature in their lives.
“A natural history museum has to inspire as well as teach,” he said. “We hope that the children who enter our doors are inspired to learn about nature their entire lives. We hope that some of them go on to be scientists. A piece of art like this helps us in our mission to inspire.”
As the sculpture artist, it seems fitting that Maisano is also inspired by nature and environment, and uses that to create both his personal artwork as well as the exhibits for the museum.