Saturday, July 27, 1996
By ANGELA SHANNON
Your eyes lock on the powerful mass of muscles. Then you notice the ferocious fangs, gripping claws and hypnotic green eyes. It's easy to imagine that if you get too close, all 2,000 pounds of this huge black cat will pounce. "I've got goose bumps all over," said Jerry Richardson, as he stood in obvious awe of a panther sculpture unveiled Friday at Ericsson Stadium. There are six identical cats — a pair for each of the three stadium entrances. "We think these set the tone for what's going to happen," said Richardson . "It's stately and it's strong. We feel like it's just perfect for us."
It took California sculptor Todd Andrews two years to create the cats. Each panther stands 8 feet high and stretches 22 feet long. They're poised as if ready to leap from 16-foot pedestals. Their tails curl upward, their snarling faces turn slightly inward as if their next meal will come from the stadium walkway.
"It's fantastic. Magnificent," said Charlottean Kent Winslow, a permanent seat license holder and one of about 200 people who gathered for the unveiling. "It's so realistic, and it's got so much ... it's not charm ... it's just poised for the kill," he said. "Powerful. Very powerful."
The sculptures are cast in bronze and coated with a black patina. The whiskers are spring wire. "If — God forbid — the kids get up there and try to break them off, they'll just spring back," said Andrews, wearing a black tuxedo with a Carolina Panthers bow tie and vest.
James Scott, 12, and his sister Jennifer, 7, of Charlotte analyzed the sculpture like aspiring art critics. "I think it has taste and strength," said James. "I especially like the eyes and the teeth. The way the toenails grip the pedestal make it look really cool." Said Jennifer: "I think it looks strong. The eyes are cool because they're green. And I agree with everything else that James said."
To develop a model for the sculptures, Andrews — who was selected from more than 40 artists — spent 20 to 30 hours studying a zoo leopard named Sydney . He watched its muscles tense as the animal growled behind bars and hunched over its food.
"They actually crouched down like this when they were feeding,," he said.
The panther statues were brought to Charlotte on trucks July 18 and hoisted onto the pedestals with a crane.