Most of us aren't fond of bugs. But we're waking up to the fact that they play critical roles, whether it's for pollination, or even as an alternative source of protein. Jennifer Angus believes that insects are beautiful in all their diversity, and in an art installation for Washington, D.C.'s Renwick Gallery, the Canadian-born artist adorned the walls with 5,000 insects, arranged in eye-catching patterns.
Angus' aim was to raise awareness about insect conservation and biodiversity. Many of the insects -- which come from specimen dealers in Southeast Asia and which are not endangered species -- are a part of Angus' personal collection for the last two decades, and are reused over and over for her shows. They have not been altered or re-coloured in any way. She outlines some of her ethics in working with insects in her art, which is motivated by her desire to remind people that wild habitats around the world are under assault. Being smaller, insects might be forgotten but they are no less important:
Many people who visit my exhibitions were never aware that such unusual insects exist. I hope that my exhibition will get them excited and perhaps they will be motivated to get involved with one of the many of the rainforest preservation projects out there. I would also like people to think about their own environment and behavior. How is urban and suburban encroachment affecting wildlife big and small in your neighborhood? It is easy to take up the case of larger mammals, birds and fish but what about smaller creatures who have an important role in the ecosystem to play be it pollinating flowers or helping in the decomposition of various matter?
On the walls of the Renwick, Angus pinned various dead and dried insects like cicadas, weevils, beetles, leaf bugs, and butterflies in repeating configurations, so that from afar, it appears that the walls have some kind of wallpaper. The pink colour of the walls is from a dye that naturally sourced from cochineal insects -- which is also sometimes used in cosmetics and even ice cream.
So are insects enjoying a moment of growing popularity? Perhaps. But whether we like them or not, they are an essential part of our ecosystems, and they can be a real wonder to observe up close, even if it generates some debate as to whether it's a good idea to pin thousands of them on the wall in such a way. But, if it does get some of us to look at bugs in a different way, and to consider their role in the bigger picture, then it might well have been a worthwhile endeavour. If you're in the area, you can visit Angus' "In The Midnight Garden" room, a part of the "Wonder" exhibition at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, which runs until July 10, 2016; or visit Jennifer Angus.