Chasing Bugs: Insects as Subject and Metaphor is on view August 23 through October 3, 2017, in the Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond Museums. This exhibition explores our abiding fascination with insects in science, literature, and the arts with images created from the late 1400s to the present. With more than one hundred artworks (and within those pieces often scores of insects), the exhibition is an extended look at more than five centuries of naturalists and artists representing the insect as subject matter and symbol. Just as entomologists continue to chase their elusive insects and spiders, contemporary artists continue to pursue bugs for intriguing and meaningful metaphors.
Calculated to be the largest biomass of terrestrial animals, insects are a pervasive presence in our lives and in our imaginations. Entomologists estimate that the ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one. “It’s no wonder that visualizing these insects that surround and vastly outnumber us is manifested in the arts throughout the past several centuries,” states Richard Waller, Executive Director, University of Richmond Museums, and curator of the exhibition. “Insects and the natural world are the catalysts for images in the arts that beguile and often charm us. The insect continues to serve as subject matter, signifier, and symbol for so many artists.”
The exhibition features works by more than forty artists working in various media, including prints, drawings, paintings, photographs, sculpture, ceramics, and video. The earliest work in the exhibition is an image of bees printed in 1491 in Germany. Prints from the 1600s include works by Jacob Hoefnagel (Flemish, 1575-1630) and Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677). The 18th and 19th centuries are represented with works by Moses Harris (British, 1730-1788), Jules Jacquemart (French, 1837-1880), and Johann Friedrich Volkart (German, 1750-1812), among others. Twentieth-century artists include Leonard Baskin (American, 1922-2000), Andreas Feininger (American, 1906-1999), Anthony Gross (British, 1905-1984), Jean-Emile Laboureur (French, 1877-1943), William Neave Parker (British, 1910-1961), and Emile-Allain Séguy (French, 1877-1951). Works in various media by contemporary artists include pieces by Paul Bush (British, born 1956), Teresa Cole (American, born 1961), Russell Hart (American, born 1953), Sue Johnson (American, born 1967), Deborah Stratman (American, born 1967), Paul Villinski (American, born 1960), George Whitman (American, born 1944), and Rob Wynne (American, born 1950), among others.
The keynote lecture on Wednesday, August 30 (see programming for details), will be presented by Eric C. Brown, Professor of English, and Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Maine at Farmington. His lecture, titled “Evolving Fables: Insects and the Imagination,” will range over the representation of insects from symbolically supercharged Renaissance emblems to various currents of the classical and contemporary popular imagination. Dr. Brown states, “From flies to flea-circuses, insects have long held a dual tradition as invisible, immaterial objects that baffle scale and visual conception, while also embodying a sense of endless pervasion in time and space (swarms of locusts, the apocalyptic longevity of the cockroach). Arguing especially for the ultimate indeterminacy of the insect, the lecture will explore ways in which insects have been used to both sustain and subvert discursive modes as diverse as the epic and the fabulous.”
Organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, the exhibition is made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017, 6 to 8 p.m.
6 p.m., Lecture, Alice Jepson Theatre, Modlin Center for the Arts
“Evolving Fables: Insects and the Imagination” Eric C. Brown, Professor of English, and Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Maine at Farmington
7 to 8 p.m., Reception and viewing of the exhibition
Harnett Museum of Art, University Museums, Modlin Center for the Arts
Friday, September 29, 2017, 2 to 4 p.m.
Art Workshop, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
“Writing with Pictures: Pictograms, Hieroglyphics, Emoticons, and the Rebus” Sue Johnson, artist in the exhibition, and Professor of Art and Art History, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Free, registration required, call Heather Campbell, Curator of Museum Programs, University Museums, 804-287-6324, or email firstname.lastname@example.org