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Art, Science, and Insects

Image Credits L-R Matt Norris, Mindy Lighthipe, Marjorie Moore, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger

Image Credits L-R Matt Norris, Mindy Lighthipe, Marjorie Moore, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger

By Gwen Pearson

Insects have inspired humans for centuries; some of the earliest human art features insects. Certainly many entomologists have been notable artists, with styles ranging from Maria Sibylla Merian‘s paintings to Paul Catts‘ wonderful cartoons and sketches.

This year’s ESA National Meeting coincided with an art show highlighting some of the many wonderful ways insects can spark our creativity.  Art.Science.Gallery. of Austin hosted ECLOSION, an exhibition of insect-inspired art. The exhibition is located at Canopy Austin, 916 Springdale Road, Building 3, Austin, Texas.

Co-curators Barrett Klein (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse) and Hayley Gillespie (Art.Science.Gallery.) assembled artworks ranging from exquisite illustrations to human-insect collaborations. Well over 200 works were submitted for consideration for inclusion in the show; a jury of entomologist-artists selected 44 artists from across Europe, North America, and Central America.

Jurors were Dr. Mark Moffett (National Geographic), Dr. Walter Tschinkel (University of Florida), Dr. David Maddison (Oregon State University) and Dr. Diane Ullman (University of California at Davis). Art.Science.Gallery. partnered with ARKive, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, the Entomological Society of America and Austin Realtor© Michael Slavik.

Art.Science.Gallery is the unique creation of Hayley Gillespie, an artist-scientist who holds a doctoral degree in ecology, evolution + animal behavior. The philosophy of the gallery is summarized as:

“We reject the idea that one must be categorized as either an “artist” or a “scientist”, and we welcome anyone along the great spectrum of artists and scientists to explore and participate in Art.Science.Gallery.! Both those educated as “artists” and as “scientists” are trained to seek out novelty and contribute to their fields in new and exciting ways. We think those people who can innovatively blend the two disciplines have the best chance of improving art, science and social literacy around the world.”

ESA Annual Meeting attendees got a preview of the show with an opening reception Saturday night, with insect hors d’oeuvres provided by Austin-based entomophagy startups Little Herds and WorldEnto.  The response was overwhelmingly positive; entomologists raved about the quality and diversity of the art included in the show (and also the cricket chocolate chip cookies).

A catalog of the show is in progress, and will be available online and in print later this month.


List of Participating ECLOSION Artists

Upcoming ECLOSION events :

  • Tuesday, November 12, 8pm | Visiting Artist Lecture + Book Signing by Damselflies of Texas: A Field Guide (University of Texas Press) author Dr. John Abbott and illustrator Dr. Barrett Klein.
  • November 16-17 + 23-24 | EAST Austin Studio Tour hours 11am – 6pm with insect hors d’oeuvres by Austin-based Little Herds + WorldEnto on Saturday, November 16th 3-6pm.

Interesting additional Insect/Art Links:


Gwen Pearson is the entomologist formerly known as Bug Girl. She obtained her PhD in entomology from North Carolina State University, and her Charismatic Minifauna blog appears in Wired Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @bug_girl.

1 Comment »

  1. Great post. Being a biologist and studying the subject, it has always seemed that the worlds of science and art can’t overlap. But it can as you have shown :) I have just written a post about Justin gershenson-gates’s mechanical insects on my blog
    I think you’d like his work if you haven’t already seen it :)

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