Often done anonymously in public places, the goal of street or "guerilla" art is to send a message or liven up an otherwise drab urban scene. Guerilla art can come in many forms, from yarn bombing to moss graffiti to lace-based installations. Using a flock of 400 handmade butterflies that seem to congregate in abandoned urban places, Indianapolis-based artist Tasha Lewis focuses on exploring the possibilities of cyanotype, an older technique of photographic processing that results in blue-tinted images.
Each of the butterflies are made with recycled materials and outfitted with a hidden magnet that allows them to stick to any metal surface without defacing them. Lewis has been deploying this beautiful swarm in various locales, photographing them and posting them on her Tumblr. It's a great way to call attention to endangered species like the monarch butterfly, also recalling their epic migrations across North America every year. It's also an effort to go back in history, says Lewis:
My current body of work was drawn from an investigation into the cultural/scientific/historical context in which the cyanotype was born. Popularized by scientists, and botanists in particular, the cyanotype is intrinsically tied into the scientific recording boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. These are the times of the curiosity cabinet, the prints of Anna Atkins and a rush of explorers/scientists to colonial lands only to bring back specimens from foreign ecosystems.
The cyanotype is a process of documenting. The resultant image is a kind of scientific stand-in for the actual object in question. It is the trace of the original. In this way, like cyanotype’s use for building blue prints in more recent centuries, my work is formed as the re-presentation of something real; it is somehow not quite the object itself.
It's a simple but striking idea; from far away, these butterflies look quite real, bringing much-needed life to the places they inhabit and probably much joy to the people who see them. You can check out more of Lewis' work on her Tumblr, and follow a map of where the next installations will be located.
Hat tip: This Is Colossal