by Justin Cox

In late 2015, California artist Lisa Reinertson donated a beautiful fired-clay sculpture, Sleep of Reason, to the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. On Thursday night, the 6-1/2 foot tall piece was unveiled at a ceremony in which Reinertson shared her gratitude for Gorilla Doctors’ work and explained the inspiration and meaning behind the sculpture.

“There are two parts,” said Reinertson, who earned her MFA from UC Davis in 1984. “The mother-child gorilla piece is almost like a Madonna-child, and I want that kind of empathy for the imagery. And below there are people that are asleep; not aware, not conscious of the important need of stewardship for the other animals that we share this earth with.”

Artist Lisa Reinertson discusses her sculpture, “Sleep of Reason”.

The unveiling of the sculpture was part of a well-attended ceremony in the lobby of the UC Davis One Health Institute and the Wildlife Health Center’s offices. Gorilla Doctors is a partnership between the Wildlife Health Center and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. Prior to the unveiling, attendees watched a segment on Gorilla Doctors that aired on 60 Minutes last fall.

Reinertson originally included the sculpture in an exhibition called Edge of Extinction at Pence Gallery in Davis, California in 2013. Inspired by an article she read about Gorilla Doctors in UC Davis Magazine, she reached out to Co-Director Dr. Kirsten Gilardi and invited her to speak at the event. After the exhibition, Reinertson donated the sculpture to the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, where it is displayed in the lobby as you enter the building.

“Thank you Lisa for such an incredible donation to the school,” said Gilardi. “This is a beautiful building and we love working here. This sculpture warms my heart.”

Dr. Michael Ziccardi, Co-Director of Wildlife Health Center; Dr. Michael Lairmore, Dean of the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine; Lisa Reinertson, sculptor, Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, Co-Director of Gorilla Doctors

Reinertson, who has completed more than 20 public commissions, has created prominent works around the world and across the UC Davis campus, including a sculpture of Martin Luther King in bronze in front of the UC Davis School of Law.

“It’s a wonderful celebration to unveil this statue today and honor the artist,” said Dr. Michael Lairmore, Dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “She’s a renowned sculptor, and we’re privileged that she has honored us with this gift.”

Reinertson said that because of the impact humans have had on the earth, it is our responsibility to provide sustainability for the animals with which we share it.

“That’s what the piece is meant to be about,” said Reinerton. “I am so grateful to the Wildlife Health Center and Gorilla Doctors, who are awake and aware and are out there taking action and doing amazing work that’s increasing the population. It just felt like it needed to be here.”