Artist Creates Abstract Paintings With Fly Vomit (Video)

Screen capture. Andy Featherston/MOCA via YouTube

From larvae-built jewelry to baskets woven with weather data, we've seen artists create art through a conscious collaboration with natural processes. But what about works that are made with house flies? For most people, house flies are not the most inspiring of creatures, much less a starting point for creating works of art. Yet Los Angeles-based artist John Knuth finds the beautiful in this mundane insect, and surprisingly creates enormous paintings with their help, through their natural digestive process.

According to Gizmodo, Knuth begins by ordering large amounts of maggots online, which he raises to maturity in a specially built closed housing. Using up to 200,000 flies, he feeds the flies a mixture of sugar, water and watercolour pigments, which the flies eat and regurgitate onto a prepared canvas surface. To eat solid food, a fly vomits the contents of its stomach onto solids, which will break it down into a liquid that it can drink via its proboscis.

See how Knuth works in this video:

JOHN KNUTH'S FLY PAINTINGS from Andy Featherston on Vimeo.

The result of this unconventional approach is an abstract and finely grained texture of colours and densities, which Knuth says is inspired by the urban landscape of Los Angeles. As Knuth tells KCET in a recent interview:

I started working with the flies because I was curious about how flies spread disease and how they digest. The more I worked with them the more I got interested in the process of condensing them to make something beautiful and beyond their nature. To me these paintings have become analogous to Los Angeles. There are denser areas and there are marks that sprawl around the canvas.

There's no indication whether the paints Knuth uses are non-toxic, natural and therefore less harmful to the flies, but it's certain that they eat well and multiply like crazy before kicking the can. To see more of John Knuth's work, check out his website.