The Entomological Society of America says that of the 10 quintillion insects crawling our globe, we’ve come up with names for just one million of the actual 30 million bug species that likely exist (and no, the freaked-out profanities that we’re inclined to shriek at ear-piercing decibels don’t count). Some may find it hard to fathom that the little buggers serve any real purpose beyond dive-bombing picnics and family barbeques or far too often piercing through unguarded swaths of epidermis in order to surreptitiously slurp our blood, but the fact of the matter is that every critter in one way or another takes on a valuable role in our ecosystem. Beyond fulfilling Mother Nature’s bidding, insects have long taken center stage as purportedly tasty, high-protein menu entrees and these days they’re also increasingly being used as a brilliantly organic art medium. So, the next time a wayward insect tiptoes up the back of your leg, instead of smashing it into smithereens, you might consider scooching it into a jar for future artistic inspiration instead!
Tessa Farmer’s Macabre Battles Between Good & Evil Creepies
(Images via: Mental Floss, Saatchi Gallery, Re-Title, Cool Picture Gallery, Bio Ephemera)
In your wildest nightmares, you probably never imagined evil fairies looking quite like Tessa Farmer’s organic miniaturized one centimeter tall corpse-like creations. Sporting eerily human-esque bodies constructed out of roots, twigs and other assorted natural materials, her creepy sculptures take on more of a menacing cringe-inducing quality with the addition of hand-plucked fly wings which are carefully adhered with glue and the precision that only tweezers and a high-powered microscope can afford. The result is a whimsically distressing battle between the swarming forces of good and evil that reveals the seedy underbelly of human nature as it struggles to dominate Mother Nature. The British born artist says that her very unique scenes get increasingly more evil as time goes on, often “evolving independently” and inspired partially by ‘Nymphidia’ from the 16th century poet Michael Drayton as well as the non-fiction thriller novels of Richard Doyle.
Michael Cook’s Jewel-Like Beetle Wing Embroidery
(Images via: Needle-n-Thread, Two Kitties)
As far back as 650 A.D., the iridescent metallic green wings of beetles have been used to enhance shrines, give pizzazz to paintings and bestow ornamental beauty to hand-held fans, figurines, jewelry, book covers and textiles. Offering an affordable yet inarguably eye-catching alternative to precious stones, steamed beetle wings can easily be punctured with a needle and strung onto fabric with thread (quite like sequins), resulting in a textural accent that is entirely organic yet very long-lasting. Modern day Texas-based textile artist Michael Cook takes great pride in his glorious hand-embroidered creations accented with shimmering beetle wings — even stringing them onto his fabric with silk spun from his personal moth colony — taking the notion of sustainability to a far greater level than even Ms. Martha Stewart herself could probably muster.
Magnus Muhr’s Comic Relief Courtesy Of Carefully Positioned Flies
(Images via: Muhr Galleri)
Hailing from Karlsoga, Sweden, there’s nothing small-town about photographer Magnus Muhr ever since he pursued a whimsical notion to collect all of the dead flies he could find around his house and give them a starring role in his hand-drawn, comical illustrations. Thanks to his boredom-busting inspiration and the magical power of the internet, Muhr has received a great deal of international attention for his very amusing works which, though often accented with Swedish commentary, easily translate across all language barriers. Although his impressive photographic portfolio includes a vast collection of diverse subjects including serene landscapes and artful nudes, there’s something about the pure simplicity of his flies portraying typical human activities that leaves quite an impression. By the way,Muhr is an eco-friendly recycler in the truest sense of the word since all of his winged creatures are harvested from the windowsills and lamps of his humble abode once they have met their demise the old-fashioned way and prints of his chuckle-worthy insect universe can be purchased for 40 Euros ($51 USD).
Mike Libby’s Robo-Insect Menagerie
(Images via: Oddity Central)
Children are innately drawn to the whimsical pastime of dismembering insects due to sheer curiosity and the desire to comprehend what makes them tick underneath all of their chitosan armor. Adults, on the other hand, generally can’t be bothered, which probably makes Mike Libby smile from ear to ear since he’s been able to virtually ensure his job security by crafting highly bizarre robotic critters via his Insect Lab that currently command hefty price tags climbing all the way up to the $1000 mark. Transforming once happy-go-lucky non-endangered buggies into cybernetic sculptures was an inspired accident prompted by the discovery of an iridescent beetle that had passed onto the other side. Scrutinizing the insect and pondering how it was quite like a miniature mechanical device, Libby hunted down an old wristwatch and decided to incorporate select gears and parts into the beetle itself, yielding a nifty steampunk-esque sculpture which he soon followed with countless others works using the inner workings of antique watches, typewriters and electrical parts. Acknowledging that his creations “tread the fine line of a guilty conscience about the death of the animal versus display of the work”, Libby is now internationally renowned and due to the demand for his left-of-center art, he’s been forced to augment his locally recycled specimens with internationally obtained critters.
Jan Fabre’s Beetle-Collaged Universe
(Images via: Appendix Mag, Salon Van Sisyphus, Blog 2 Modern, The Haunted Lamp, Science Blogs, Art’s The Answer, Saatchi Gallery, Blue Acres, LI to the NK)
For well over a decade, Belgium artist Jan Fabre has done some pretty strange things with beetle bodies…that is, if you consider studding countless surfaces including caskets, seating, pottery urns with critter carcasses as a just a wee bit left of center. Of all the projects he undertaken throughout the years however, nothing has drawn quite as much attention as his adornment of the ceiling of Brussels’ Royal Palace in 2002 with 1.4 million jewel beetle shells (along with a team of 29 fastidious gluers). Why the fascination with Sternocera Acquisignata? “They symbolize our passage to death, though death understood in the sense of a positive energy field,” Fabre once explained, and given their durability and impressive fade-resistance, they also happen to be an artist’s wildest eco-medium come true. Once you get past the fact that you’re gazing at a sea of dead beetle bodies, the experience can be surreal and dreamy, all at the same time.
Fabian Pena’s Cucaracha Mosaics
(Images via: Cubaen Cuentro, Art Havana, Mi Melodia, C-Monster, Landcare Research, Oldster’s View)
Initially taking advantage of a state sponsored mosquito extermination program in his native Cuba — the collateral damage being hundreds of “stunned” cockroaches — Fabian Pena was able to easily scoop up the subjects of his future artworks, organizing their carcasses into size and tone. The artist then used their wings to create painstakingly hand-arranged mosaics, a response to the indelible impression that their splattered remains made on him as a child while witnessing his grandfather ushering them along to the next life with a rolled up newspaper. Today, he’s established such a name for himself and his astounding odes to la cucaracha that he no longer has to pay 50 cents per harvested roach — people now happily deposit assorted carcasses at his door step. Pena acknowledges that his fascination with Periplaneta Americana makes most people’s skin crawl, but by recycling the 400 million year old creatures, he feels that he “re-contextualizes them” by endowing them with the ability to “comment on man’s existential condition after their death.”
Steven Kutcher’s Pimped-Out Picasso Insects
(Images via: Bug Art By Steven, Washington Post)
Known as Hollywood’s preeminent bug wrangler and entomologist, Steven Kutcher has been quite comfortable handling countless types of creepy-crawlies — including tarantulas, cockroaches, locusts, moths, butterflies, ants, grasshoppers, flies, wasps, scorpions and bees on the sets of countless big budget films for many years now, but art is really where his heart is. Apparently, his insect compadres also feel the call of paint and canvas because they have been integral to the creation of Kutcher’s Bug Art collection. Unlike the previously mentioned art works in this article, NO BUGS have been harmed in the production of the entomologist’s colorful array of paintings (which currently number in the hundreds) because he is very careful to use easily washable non-toxic paints which he hand-loads onto each of their legs before letting them loose. Hoping that art aficionados will gaze at the product of bug partnerships and “see the duality of art and science,” Kutcher endlessly marvels at the fact that paint is the vehicle through which humans can finally detect the visible journey of insects, which he likens to “writing a page in (their) life.”
Christopher Marley’s Exquisite Jeweled Insect Arrangements
(Images via: The Orange County Register, News World, Gogo Raleigh, Jake Graving, Garden and Gun, Nest Home)
Wow — talk about a kaleidoscope of color! There’s no denying that Christopher Marley’s arrangements of exotic, intensely-pigmented insects are phenomenally beautiful, but hey…wait just a second…is it really fair to call them “art”? Naysayers might be inclined to suggest that arranging a bunch of dead bug carcasses into starburst patterns requires absolutely no shred of artistic skill whatsoever…but what they tend to forget is that Mr. Marley’s highly sought after prints command serious cashola, which means that people legitimately do regard what he is creating as a form of art. Furthermore, he was the one who thought of plunking dead bugs down into patterns first, so no need to be jealous…squeaky wheel gets the oil! What’s rather amusing is that the former bug-o-phobe claims that he now has a deep reverence for all of the creatures that he ends up killing for his livelihood, which seems a little confusing. How is that possible? Marley explains that he’s protecting delicate eco-systems tucked deep within rain forests by paying local residents to selectively cull insect specimens rather than entire populations, ensuring that they have an “economic incentive” to respect the landscape rather than raze it.
Katie Jennings’ Artfully Buggy Showpieces
(Images via: Andrew Zimmern, Etsy, Insect Art Online)
Sting once sang that if you love something or someone, you should “free, free…set them free“, but self-acknowledged bug enthusiast Katie Jennings apparently didn’t listen to that particular CD. What a shame, because the Lawrence, Kansas native — who seems like such a good-natured gal and an admitted lover of all things creepy crawly — might have experienced a moral awakening upon listening to the former Police frontman’s lyrics, choosing instead to abandon her artistic discipline altogether in favor of becoming a bug birthing mother. Alas, her insect-inspired art is still going strong and while it is certainly easy on the eyes…it’s just…well…kind of like placing miniature critter caskets on your wall (or on your earlobes or hair!!!). Jennings’ shadowboxes (featuring glorious technicolor butterflies or beetles nestled up against a contrasting backdrop of handmade marbled, textured or mottled paper) serve as somewhat less of a funeral shrine than her exposed checkerboard beetle pawns, and yet with every piece she creates, she is effectively celebrating the unique beauty of each specimen, suggesting that the onlooker appreciate and savor that which we normally take for granted. Too bad they’re dead as a doornail. On the bright side, they’re organic…and they don’t have to be fed.
Jennifer Angus’ Vivid, Creepy-Covered Wall Collages
(Images via: Biz Bash, Jennifer Angus, Brooksayola, New York Times, Curious Expeditions)
In a stunning landscape of shape, texture and color, this outstandingly original wallpaper flecked with once hopping and buzzing bugs is virtually impossible to take your eyes off of. These patterns are impossible to find at one’s local home improvement store because they are in fact made possible thanks to the sacrifice of thousands of critters honed from the floors of rain forests — but unlike her fellow insect art enthusiasts — Jennifer Angus reuses HER bodies, thank you very much. Rather than using glue to adhere her subjects onto surfaces, she spears them with straight pins, which may seem like heaping insult upon final injury, but it affords her the opportunity to carefully remove the impaled creatures and integrate them into future artistic installations. If, for some reason, a beetle has reached the point of no repair, then the artist makes a point of donating it along with any other casualties to schools for children to examine and learn from. Give that girl a sky high eco-five!