This exhibition features eleven contemporary artists who offer probing personal interpretations on the importance of insects through a variety of media: Brandon Ballengée, Joianne Bittle, Rebecca Clark, Emilie Clark, Talia Greene, Asuka Hishiki, Julian Montague, Lisa Murch, Julia Oldham, Christy Rupp, and Ben Snead. The show is curated by Jennifer Lantzas, NYC Parks’ Public Art Coordinator.
This exhibition takes its name from ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s classification of insects by their similar traits: six legs and clearly segmented or “notched” bodies. Humans have had a long and complex relationship with insects. Their alien appearance can be jarring or off-putting, but upon closer inspection insects are works of art. They are often seen as pests or invaders; however, their critical role in our ecosystem and daily lives is increasingly clear as urban farming, gardening, and the impact of syndromes like Colony Collapse Disorder become prevalent. Insects are keen indicators of the health of our environment. They help break down and decompose rotting materials, which reintroduces rich nutrients into the soil. They are also the first line of defense against invasive plants and other harmful insects.
Located on the Arsenal lawn, Brandon Ballengée’s outdoor light installation creates interactions between nocturnal arthropods and humans. In the gallery, Joianne Bittle’s Goliath Beetle is removed from his natural surroundings and placed on a gold background, referencing religious icons from the Byzantine era. A botanic wallpaper installation by Talia Greene is inhabited by a colony of weaver ants, illustrating our vain attempts to impose order on the natural world. Faux books and records designed by Julian Montague document the hypothetical history of pest control. In her videos, Julia Oldham translates insects’ behaviors into choreographed performances. Ben Snead paints insects in geometric patterns—a personal classification system based on aesthetics rather than science. Rebecca Clark, Emilie Clark, Asuka Hishiki, Lisa Murch, and Christy Rupp also present diverse artworks that herald insects as fascinating creatures to be studied, understood and celebrated.
All images courtesy of NYC Parks / Malcolm Pinckney.