Three artists from across with globe--Steven Kutcher, Aganetha Dyck and Hubert Duprat—collaborate with insects in order to create surprising and innovative art. By using art to explore scientific puzzles, they open up new understandings of the complex life forms and life systems around us.
By Megan Guerber
Spring has hit New York. Snow banks melt around us into large puddles as birds become chattier outside our windows. Life is starting to creep out of the woodworks back onto the streets, and soon insects will reign the outdoors. While many of us shriek at the sight of anything small and hairy with more than four legs, we often overlook the beauty and impact of these small creatures.
Steven Butcher is a California-based entomologist, teacher and artist. His knowledge of insect behavior has facilitated collaboration on a wide variety of projects, including directing the arachnids in such feature films as Spiderman, Jurassic Park, and Arachnophobia.
As an artist, Kutcher is interested in the movement of insects. He collaborates with beetles, worms, flies, cockroaches and more to create beautiful paintings. These paintings reveal the hidden or hard-to-see movements of bugs. Kutcher creates these works by painting the underside of each insect with water-based, nontoxic paints. After gently applying the pigment, he then sets the “artist” free on a wet paper, which he spins in order to assist with the overall composition. You can see Kutcher and his insect collaborators in action here.
Aganetha Dyck is a Canadian artist interested in interspecies communication. She works closely with honeybees to build hybrid sculptures that comment upon the interdependence of humans and nature. Due to Colony Collapse Disorder, bee populations are plummeting at a shocking rate. Through her work Dyck asks us important questions about food and survival—how will we germinate our crops without honeybees?
With the help of scientists and beekeepers, Dyck designs special apiaries to encourage the building of honeycombs around human objects. From these human-honeybee collaborations Dyck has transformed shoes, porcelain figures and sporting equipment into works of art about the ramifications of bee extinction. Hear Dyck talk about her work and see her process here.
Hubert Duprat is a French sculptor interested in the architecture of insects. He works with caddishly larvae, or Trichoptera, which can be found near streams and ponds. These aquatic larvae spin protective sheaths out of a wide-variety of organic material in order to protect their developing bodies. These sheaths are generally assembled from plant material, fish bones, twigs and grains of sand.
Duprat interrupts this system by transporting Trichoptera to temporary environments in which only gold spangles, precious and semi-precious stones are available. The highly adaptable larvae then build rare and exquisite sheaths fit for royalty. A commentary upon the collision of materials valued by nature and mankind, the beauty of these jeweled sheaths cannot be ignored. You can view these micro-artists in action here.
Although Kutcher, Dyck and Duprat each have a different approach, they all combine science with art in order to educate us on the awe-inspiring role of insects. From creating spider webs to performing intricate dances, these creepy-crawlies never cease to amaze. This year as spring unfolds, take a moment to appreciate our tiny allies and the beautiful works of art that they create.