Those with a fear of creepy crawlies look away now… in a new show at Washington’s Smithsonian American Art Museum the wallpaper adorning the Renwick Gallery takes the botanical trend one step further than you might feel comfortable with. As part of the new Wonder exhibition artist Jennifer Angus has filled the space with repeating geometric patterns of preserved insects. And not small ones either.
The commission is part of an exhibition celebrating the reopening of the Renwick Gallery after a two year refurbishment programme. Artists working in a variety of media were invited to create site-specific installations that would transform the gallery’s rooms into art works in their own right. The responses have been varied – a maze of dismembered rubber tires and a landscape of cotton threads also appear – but the real show stopper is the vivid, intricate insect piece by Angus.
As an artist this is far from the first time that she has used insects in her work – her website has a whole page about her carefully argued and considered ‘ethics of using insects’. The piece in the Smithsonian is so arresting because of the colours used and the scale of the piece. One question she is often asked, reveals Angus, is whether the colours of the insects she uses have been altered at all – the answer is no, and the colours revealed on the largest specimens are all the more astounding when seen holding their own against the vibrant pink background chosen for the ‘wallpaper’.
Most of the insects have been sourced by the artist on trips to Thailand and Malaysia, and though none of the insects used are from endangered species, part of the purpose of the work is to highlight the destruction of these insect’s natural habitats as well as their essential role in the earth’s eco-system as a whole.
The Wonder exhibition runs from 13 November 2015 to July 2016 at The Smithsonian American Art Museum. The insects, Angus assures visitors to her website, will be carefully removed and reused where possible at the exhibition’s end.