Bugged Out

Jennifer Angus and her entomological wall art

Don’t be shocked to see insects on the wall when you come across Jennifer Angus’ stunning wallpaper--they're an integral part of the design!

Angus, a Canadian artist and professor of apparel and textile design at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, has for the past decade created large installations primarily composed of bugs. She writes in her artist's statement about possible first reactions to her work,  “ A tension is created by the beauty one observes in the pattern and the apprehension we feel toward insects. I know very few people who welcome insects into their home. In fact, we have a certain hysteria about them. Culturally, insects are a sign of dirtiness and disease. My work explores ideas of home and comfort. It alludes to the unseen world of dust mites, germs and bacteria, both friendly and not.”

Her recent work is inspired by the Victorian era that harks back to a time when travel and exploring, scientific discovery and the beginning of photography began to get a firm foothold. It was a time when adults and children were intrigued by nature and were introduced to it by publications that anthropomorphized mammals, birds and insects (like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Woderland), which would appeal to the general public. She writes, “Voracious collecting of all manner of plants and wildlife was extremely popular at that time. In my mind, the elephant’s foot umbrella stand is the quintessential object that defines the era, for it is exotic yet grotesque. For the insatiable Victorian collector, nothing was sacrosanct.”

Her supply of insects from Thailand and Malaysia are either farmed or collected by local indigenous people. She writes, “Since most of these species come from a rain forest enviornment the people collecting will not cut down the jungle which provides their livlihood. It is ecologically sound. They are a renewable resource." The insects are all dead They are dried and have not been painted. The only alterations Angus makes is either repositioning their legs and wings. Angus reuses the insects for each of installations; damaged ones are either repaired or offered to children to study.

In an essay about the ethics of using insects in her art work, she points out, “While none of these species are endangered it is important to note that their habitat is under assault. Unsurprisingly forests play second fiddle to human demands for agriculture and urbanization. Intellectually we recognize that forests are the lungs of the planet but not enough is being done to protect this precious resource. Virtually every insect on the endangered species list is there because of loss of habitat.”

To grasp the beauty of both the insects and the installation created by Angus, the buggy wallpaper is on view at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian.

For more information about Jennifer Angus, visit www.jenniferangus.com.

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