Senior Project: Anatomy of a Cat

“I love everything about this project. I love coming back here after school and working on it; I love having my own space and my own head space; and I love being able to express myself in this weird mix of science and art.” Blending his passion for anatomy and sculpture, Serge Merjeevski created a replica of a long-ago extinct predatory animal for his Senior Project.

Heating, hammering, bending, and welding large chunks of metal together, Serge fashioned a life-sized saber-toothed tiger. The sculpture accentuates the cat’s muscles. “So much of this animal means power, and agility, and grace,” said Serge.

Metalwork, sculpture, zoology, and anatomy have been lifelong interests for Serge, but they didn’t fully come to fruition until just two years ago. Before coming to Ross, he discovered the anatomical drawings of a panther that simply struck a chord in him. He practiced drawing the anatomy of a leopard and eventually sculpted one out of metal. Bitten by the creative bug, he moved on to sketching saber-toothed tigers and, once at Ross, was encouraged by art teacher Ned Smyth to use his Senior Project as a vehicle to express this passion.

With the help of Middle School art teacher Jon Mulhern, Serge set up a fully functioning welding studio using a shipping container, which was installed on the far end of campus. From October to mid-January, he worked nearly every day after school, into the night, and learned a few life lessons along the way. “I learned that you need to have patience, no judgment, a positive attitude, and that you have to let things unfold as they need to.” He also realized that sometimes taking risks is necessary. “I was always taught to play it safe, but [Mr. Mulhern] pushed me to be daring, and I always wanted to be daring.”

In order to make his sculpture as realistic as possible, Serge did extensive research on the appearance of both extinct saber-toothed cats and modern felids. He also studied cranial anatomy and collected skull replicas of large predators, such as the leopard, Tasmanian tiger, and dire wolf. His entire project includes drawings, data, skull replicas, and models of both extinct and living cats, as well as the life-sized sculpture.

Although his project is complete, Serge intends to continue working with metal, noting, “It’s the movement that counts, not the end result.” That being said, he feels a deep gratification for having finished such a challenging project. “It’s about stepping back and seeing this whole complete thing in front of you and saying, ‘Yeah, I did that.’”