The Kimball Center for the Arts would like to invite the public to take a trip down the rabbit hole.
The two non-profit visual art exhibitions, “Wonderland”, a collection of works by renowned international artists David AltmejdUta BekaiaYasue Maetakeand Catalina Ouyang; and “Eat me, drink me” a large-scale installation by Jennifer Angus – are now open until November 27.
“Wonderland” invites customers to look inward and explore the surrounding world through whimsical creations of hybrid and fragmented forms. At the same time, “Eat Me, Drink Me” invites viewers to return to a state of childlike curiosity and reflect on the relationship humans have with the natural world, curator Nancy Stoaks said.
“Together these five artists refer to a state of transformation, becoming or non-resolving with deep intention in the material and process used,” Stoaks said. “Visitors will feel the tension between the familiar and the strange, between seduction and repulsion, and between dreamlike states.”
The Park Record caught up with Angus, who was at the Kimball Art Center last week, to talk about his exhibit, which uses insect carcasses and taxidermy to create site-specific installations.
“It’s like reinventing the wheel with every show, because every space is different,” she said. “The Kimball Art Center sent me the floor plan and I just started playing. Since I’ve worked enough with the bugs, I do most of the work in Photoshop. And then when I get there, I’m starting to mount the exhibition.
Sometimes Angus places its facilities in historic buildings.
“When I do that, I’ll pick up the story of the place, but the Kimball Art Center is a relatively new space,” she said. “So it didn’t pose any major logistical problems. Drywall is the perfect substrate for pinning bugs, and this drywall isn’t covered in 20 years of paint.
“Eat Me, Drink Me” takes up two rooms, and the first room, which is brightly lit, serves as something of an introduction to the darker second room, Angus said.
Both rooms feature insects pinned in patterns to the walls and bell towers that house dioramas of insects looking at Victorian-era microscope slides.
“Most of the slides are also entomological, so you have beetles looking at bed bugs and hedgehog fleas,” Angus said. “There’s this concept of something small looking at something smaller.”
Since glass, shine and jars are associated with scientific memorabilia and specimens, Angus decided to create what she calls a wedding cake, a huge tower, in the first room.
The wedding cake is a collection of bells on stacked platforms that serve as a pedestal for a stuffed opossum, she said.
“That kind of gives people a foreshadowing of what they’ll see in the next room,” Angus said.
On the surface, the installation in the next room depicts stuffed animals enjoying a dinner, but when visitors look closer, the roast beef is a wasp’s nest, the salads are dead flies, and the wallpaper patterns are made of cicadas and mimic leaf insects.
“It’s sort of set up like a memento mori painting, lush still lifes that contain an element of compensation that reminds viewers of their mortality,” Angus said. “And what looks like wallpaper is made from insects, something we don’t want in our homes. So there’s an attraction to what we know – wallpaper and patterns – and then, looking closer and seeing what the patterns are made of, you get that feeling of repulsion.
While the taxidermies were provided by the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University, Angus owns all the bugs.
The insects are dead and dried, and the colors are all natural, she says.
“Cicadas are the meat and potatoes of the operation because they are hearty,” Angus said. “Some are 20 years old, and they have been used from exhibition to exhibition.”
The artist was drawn to leaf imitations because of their appearance.
“I think people appreciate the way the leaf mimics, which is from the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia,” she said. “They have adapted over the years to look like a particular leaf on a tree found there. But they are also very fragile. If you drop one, it will break.
So Angus is careful when she goes up and hits her setups.
“Once the exhibit is down, the insects will be placed on foam trays and in storage boxes,” she said.
The exhibit uses about 2,500 insects, not counting those on bells, according to Angus.
“They’ve all been ethically sourced for over 20 years, and I haven’t bought any in a while because I reuse them,” she said. “When possible, I buy farmed insects and when I do, I don’t order large quantities, as this will have an impact on the environment.”
The installation is highlighted by spectacular lighting with colored light bulbs placed in chandeliers.
“A recent interest for me has been lighting, and during the pandemic I lit a show entirely with chandeliers, which was just magical to me,” Angus said. “So the next step in my progressive thinking was to change the color of the chandelier bulbs. I wondered what that would add to that.
Continuing his thoughts, Angus began to use mirrors.
“I’ve never inserted mirrors, but I started doing it because they catch the light,” she said.
The idea of creating large-scale installations with insects came to Angus, a professor of textile design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, years ago.
“I always say patterns are my first love, and I was researching in northern Thailand about tribal minority clothing,” she said. “I came across clothing adorned with elytra, the hard outer wings of beetles, which are metallic green.”
Growing up in Canada, Angus never thought insects, other than butterflies, were beautiful.
“But I was enchanted by these iridescent specimens, because they were like nature’s glitter,” she said. “I had an ‘a-ha moment’ and decided to take the bugs and put them in patterns.”
Angus conceived the idea of ”Eat Me, Drink Me” while thinking about the relationship between humans and nature.
“I was thinking about how we usually see nature as a commodity that we consume,” she said.
Angus’ thoughts were inspired by the children’s song by Rose Bonne and Alan Mills, “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”.
“In the song, this poor lady ends up consuming all these animals because she swallowed a fly by mistake,” Angus said. “Then I thought, instead of eating animals, why not invite them to a dinner party. And that’s how this idea started.
Over the years, Angus has thought of other insects she would like to work with, but the only one she has yet to work with is a lantern-headed beetle. And she would only use him if he was alive.
“I have an acquaintance who got lost in the Costa Rican jungle,” she said. “It was dark and he found one of these beetles and used it as a light. So I would like to use one, but like the fireflies, it would have to be alive for it to generate light. light.