If bugs could carry protest signs, what would they say?
A new exhibit at Western University’s McIntosh Gallery is exploring the idea by blending art and science to showcase the beautiful, diverse and vital role of insects under threat.
“Insects are the most diverse organisms on earth,” said Nina Zitani, curator of the zoological collections in the department of biology at Western University.
“That diversity is at-risk due to habitat destruction worldwide,” she said.
Insect as Idea features nine contemporary artworks and a display of 600 butterfly and moth species from around the world – including some that are now endangered.
“The specimens are incredibly beautiful: the patterning, the colour, the variety of form. To be able to see them all simultaneously, an entire wall filled with them, it’s a really rare opportunity,” said Helen Gregory, curator at McIntosh Gallery.
The insect specimens are part of Western University’s zoological collection from the department of biology dating back to the 1920s and were collected from the Amazon rainforest, South America, India, the Himalayas, Africa, Canada and the U.S.
Themes of biodiversity, nature and colonization are explored in artworks by Carl Beam, Catherine Chalmers, Andrea Cooper, Christi Belcourt, Aganetha and Richard Dyck, Jude Griebel, The Institute of Queer Ecology, Jennifer Murphy and Amy Youngs.
“Everything is incredibly beautiful,” said Gregory. “The work is really sensuous, really aesthetic.”
Métis artist Christi Belcourt’s painting mimics beadwork to symbolize interconnectedness in nature, while Jude Griebel’s wood sculptures depict insects protesting against ecological crisis, said Gregory.
Zitani hopes the exhibit will encourage more people to address dwindling biodiversity in their own backyards by planting more native plants.
“We need to create habitat to combat habitat loss,” she said. “If we want to have the adult butterflies, we have to have the habitat for the caterpillars.”
Insect as Idea is on display at Western University’s McIntosh Gallery until June 18, open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.