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Winnipeg Art Gallery
Winnipeg MB Canada
Sept 21, 2005 - Jan 8th, 2006
 
 
 
 
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"Lift": an Installation in the WAG Elevator

 

 
 

Step inside! Cross the threshold to be transported to another place. Text engraved upon green iridescent beetles placed upon the elevator walls invites you to:

 

 
 

Come take up your hats
And away let us haste
To the butterflies ball
And the grasshoppers feast.*

 

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The doors automatically close and you are surrounded. This will be a little disquieting for some, but take the time to look, discover and be amazed!

 

 
 

Lift harkens to another era, specifically a time of Victorian eccentricity where good taste was dubious, for this elevator is encrusted with a variety of insect species placed in elaborate patterns. From butterflies that look like autumn leaves to iridescent weevils to some of the hugest grasshoppers you have ever seen - all have been placed in playful ways which recall flowers in the garden or fireworks on a summer evening. A tension is created between the beauty one observes in the patterns and the repulsion one feels towards such grotesquery.

 

 
 

Notions of a romanticized childhood were invented in the Victorian era. It was a time ripe with stories of fairy folk, yet also a time of great scientific discovery. Both adults and children were introduced to the natural world through a large number of educational publications in which various forms of wildlife from insects to elephants were anthropomorphized so as to have greater appeal to the general reading public. Voracious collecting of all manner of plants and wildlife was extremely popular at that time. For the insatiable Victorian collector, nothing was sacrosanct. In the heyday of collecting, the prestige of a large collection and the finest and most unusual specimens was enormous. Lift embraces a world of science and fantasy.

 

 
  *William Roscoe, 1808, The Butterflies Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast  
 
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School of Art Gallery
Australian National University
Canberra ACT Australia
July 15 - August 14 2005
 
 
 
 
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Enter a space which at first might seem like your great aunt's parlour - the busy wallpaper, the dark wood furniture and bric-a-brac. Then take a closer look, for pinned directly to the wall in a pattern upon the wallpaper are insects. Cicadas to be exact, yet they do not sing. A tension is felt between the beauty one observes in the pattern and the repulsion one feels towards such grotesquery. Species invokes the Victorian aesthetic of taste, clutter and exotica.

 

 
 

Pull open the drawer of the small curio cabinet and etched upon the backs of green iridescent insects is a quote from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book:

 

 
 

Singer and tailor am
I Doubled the joys that I know
Proud of my lilt to the sky,
Proud of the house that I sew
Over and under, so weave I my music
So weave I the house that I sew.

 

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The Victorian era was a time of excitement. It was the age of travel, exploration, scientific discovery and the dawning of photography. Both adults and children were introduced to the natural world through a large number of educational publications in which various wildlife from insects to elephants were anthropomorphized so as to have greater appeal to the general reading public. Voracious collecting of all manner of plant 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. In the heyday of collecting, the prestige of a large collection and the finest and most unusual specimens was enormous. While men of science worked in the field collecting, the wealthy sponsored expeditions and were the great accumulators.

 

 
 

Yet a strange contradiction existed, for as enthusiastic as the public was about Sir Richard Burton's discovery of the source of Nile and other exotic exploits, they were also captivated by the idea and belief in fairies. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories and surely a master of logic, was a proponent of the existence of fairies. The publishing of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" in 1848 was embraced by Victorian anthropologists, for they interpreted it as an explanation of fairies as a separate and savage race. *

 

 
 

Species embraces a world of science and fantasy, yet how does it make sense in 2005? We too live in a world in which tremendous technological advances and discoveries are being achieved. Yet at the same time literature and tabloids explore the idea that beyond the confines of our universe and knowing perception exist other life forms, extra-terrestrials. Has the search for ET replaced the search for fairies, or is it simply an idea updated?

 

 
  * Silver, Carole G., Strange and Secret Peoples, Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, 1999  
 
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University of Wisconsin
Stevens Point, USA
February 2005.
 
 

 
 
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"A Cancer" is a collaborative multi media print project between Jennifer Angus, (Environment, Textiles and Design, School of Human Ecology) and John Hitchcock (Art Department, School of Education). Angus's background is in fiber media and textile design while Hitchcock is engaged in the mediums of serigraphy and relief printing. From these different places in the art world Angus and Hitchcock share an interest in work that is motivated by socio-political themes such as identity, cross cultural interaction and connections between social class and disease. It is our intention that "A Cancer" examine life in North America in the 21st century. In particular the work focuses on current global epidemics - from cancer to AIDS to Avian Flu to BSE

 

 
 

Angus's recent work has been in the form of art installation in which thousands of real insects are pinned directly to the wall in continuous patterns which mimic wallpaper. These works allude to the unseen world of dust mites, germs and bacteria, both friendly and not. Issues concerning the quality of life, including home as a safe and comfortable place, AIDS and other devastating diseases arise. In addition these works draw attention to attitudes toward nature, the land and in particular the obsessive need to own and exploit.

 

 
 

Hitchcock's current art works relate to living on indigenous lands (United States Government lands) in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma next to Fort Sill, Lawton the largest field artillery military base in North America. The images he uses are a direct result of stories shared by family members and issues regarding growing up on those lands such as consumption, in particular the distribution by the USDA of commodity foods to indigenous lands, welfare programs, and to Third World countries.

 

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From a technical perspective both Angus and Hitchcock utilize screenprinting and digital imaging in their teaching and personal work. Coincidentally both artists employ pattern as a visual tool of communication as well. It is an interest in pattern that initiated their first conversations about a collaboration. While both teach screenprinting (serigraphy), the method of printing is very different. In fine art serigraphy an image is printed on a single piece of paper although it may be printed numerous times for a numbered edition. When printing upon cloth an overall pattern is generally the desired effect. Thus textile printing utilizes a complex registration system in which a screen is moved along a table to print yardage. In the Dye and Print studio in the School of Human Ecology we are able to print as wide as 5 feet and as long as 28 feet. While this is nothing extraordinary in the textile world it is on the verge of revolutionary in the fine art print world. With the exception of the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia no one has considered utilizing this technology for prints on paper. We exploit textile printing methods which have been relegated to the "applied arts" in order to produce not only monumental scale works on cloth and paper but even wallpaper.

 

 
 

Please follow this link to John Hitchcock's website for more images:
http://website.education.wisc.edu/jhitchcock/acancer.html

 

 
 
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Project Room
York Quay Gallery
Toronto Ontario Canada
January 2005
 
 
 
 
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Perhaps you have walked on a warm summer evening and seen fireflies dancing in the sky. There is something magical about the sight, and one wishes one could be part of the festivities and the mystery. Such a desire may seem childish, and I note that indeed childrenís literature is populated with wonderful six legged characters such as the insect companions in James and the Giant Peach or the fabulously glamorous cockroach in La Cucharacha Martina. In fact, what is considered the first childrenís story in the English language which was not a moral tale or fable is The Butterflies Ball and The Grasshoppers Feast by William Roscoe dating from 1808. In the Victorian era, both adults and children were introduced to the natural world through a large number of educational publications in which insects were anthropomorphized so as to have greater appeal to the general reading public. Voracious collecting of all manner of plant and wildlife was extremely popular at that time. However in this millennium, an adultís worry of insects extends to serious diseases such as West Nile Virus, Lyme disease and malaria. In fact there is a certain hysteria, as insects culturally are a sign of dirtiness and disease.

 

 
 

My work is dependent upon the supposition that there is a cultural understanding of pattern. When viewers enter one of my installations, they are greeted with something they think they know, that is, a patterned wallpaper. A tension is created by the beauty one observes in the pattern and the apprehension we feel toward insects.

 

 
 
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Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery
University of Nebraska U.S.A.
November 2004
 
 
 
 
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Carpet Beetles: Patterns of the Orient marks a departure for me as it is the first exhibition in which I have utilized the floor. For the past five years, I have been creating installations composed of insects pinned directly to a wall in repeating patterns which reference both textiles and wallpaper

 

 
 

My work is dependent upon the supposition that there is a cultural understanding of pattern. When viewers enter one of my installations, they are greeted with something they think they know, that is, a patterned wallpaper which could be in anyone's home. However upon closer examination, one discovers that it is entirely made up of insects.

 

 
 

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. Some of that hysteria is based upon fact. For example, the bubonic plague was spread by fleas which resided on rats. West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes, and recently I read that cockroaches in a crowded apartment block in Hong Kong may have helped spread SARS. My work explores ideas of home and comfort. It alludes to the unseen world of dust mites, germs and bacteria, both friendly and not.

 

 
 

Carpet Beetles was designed to be displayed upon the floor. I have fond memories of lying on the Chinese carpet in front of the fire in my parent's living room. The carpet was thick, soft and luxurious, but what was actually lurking there? It has occurred to me that if one actually walked across the "carpets" in this show there would be an unpleasant crunch - a crunch the braver amongst us are familiar with when grinding our heel upon an unwanted pest. Those who are not so brave may well recall the feeling of jumping up on a chair as something goes scurrying by. I am interested in taking a familiar form, in this case a carpet, and toying with the viewer's comfort zones.

 

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For this exhibition I researched patterns found upon carpets throughout the traditional rug-weaving areas of the world: Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia, western China, and India. Obviously I am playing too with the existing connection between beetles and carpets, for the carpet beetle is a pest commonly found in homes. The larvae are a particular menace, for they often feed on wool rugs.

 

 
 

It is undeniable that when confronted with so many insects, issues related to the environment are bound to surface. For me, many historical issues of collecting are raised, in particular the insatiable Victorian collector for whom nothing was sacrosanct. In fact, not only were insects collected at that time, but so were carpets. Today there are carpets in museum collections in which the maker's tribal group no longer exists, for they were assimilated or annihilated during campaigns of war. This seems worth consideration, given the current state in the Middle East

 

 
 
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Wisconsin Academy Gallery
Overture Center
Madison Wisconsin USA
Fall 2004
 
 
 
 
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  In response to the Wisconsin Academy Gallery's invitation to participate in the inaugural exhibition in their new space at the Overture Center in Madison I created "Capitol Idea". The work is just over 40 feet long and approximately 3 feet wide consisting of 4 different types of cicada from Thailand. When I first visited the gallery space it reminded me of Madison's capitol building because of its physical proximity and the rotunda type shape. My work references the friezes which go around the base of the capitol dome.  
 
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Artcite
Windsor Ont Canada
Fall 2004
 
 
 
 
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For the past five years, I have been creating installations composed of insects pinned directly to a wall in repeating patterns which reference both textiles and wallpaper. My early training was in textile design. Although very little of what I currently do involves cloth, my work is nonetheless informed by the textile tradition. In particular, I am inspired by pattern to which repetition is inherent. Thus the notion of infinitude is closely linked, for when does a pattern end?

 

 
 

The connection I have made between insects and pattern is not arbitrary. Scientists have identified 950,000 insect species, and the beetle (Coleoptera) population alone makes up one quarter of the animal population. Presumably there are other species which have yet to be identified or to evolve, thus one could believe that discovery might continue to perpetuity.

 

 
 

My work is dependent upon the supposition that there is a cultural understanding of pattern. That understanding provides a framework of a narrative. When a viewer enters one of my installations, he/she is greeted with something they think they know, that is, a patterned wallpaper which could be in anyone's home. However upon closer examination one discovers that it is entirely made up of insects.

 

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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. Some of that hysteria is based upon fact. For example, the bubonic plague was spread by fleas which resided on rats. West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes, and recently I read that cockroaches in a crowded apartment block in Hong Kong may have helped spread SARS. My work explores ideas of home and comfort. Chiyogami alludes to the unseen world of dust mites, germs and bacteria, both friendly and not.

 

 
 

I was inspired to create the patterns for this exhibition by chiyogami, a kind of Japanese screen printed decorative paper. Originally, similar designs were developed in the Edo period (1600 - 1886) as woodblock prints by papermakers for use upon accessories for the home. They were based on the bright kimono textiles from the area known as Yuzen which was famous for its sophisticated techniques of dyeing cloth. I have always found something delightful, whimsical and memorable in these designs for I remember them from a trip to Japan as a child in 1970. While quite dainty upon the paper when magnified to the scale I have created them in the gallery they are more likely to evoke a sixties "flower power" feel. Composed of circles of clear winged cicadas and colourful grasshoppers there is a happy, joyous feeling to the installation which may be quite contrary to how some feel about insects.

 

 
 

It is undeniable that when confronted with so many insects issues related to the environment are bound to surface. For me many historical issues of collecting are raised, in particular the insatiable Victorian collector for whom nothing was sacrosanct. The work addresses the obsessive need to collect and own at the expense, exhaustion and extinction of a species. Many people have asked me if the insects in my work are real. Answer: Yes. Have I collected them myself? Answer: No, they come from insect specimen dealers throughout the world. As I have worked for the past eight years with insects, I have developed several contacts with reputable dealers. Rest assured that while I may allude to threatened species none of the insects I use are endangered. Insect dealers, scientists and myself are of the belief that if we encourage tribal peoples to continue collecting insects, thus providing a livelihood, then they will have less reason to cut down the rain forest which the insects inhabit. It is ecologically sound. They are a renewable resource.

 

 
 
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"Bug-Eyed: Art, Culture, Insects"
Turtle Bay Museum,
Redding CA, USA
August 6, 2004 - March 27, 2005
 
 
the above color chip is the actual wall color
 
 
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Occupying a corner of the gallery space (each wall is 8' x 8') A Place I Call Home is intended to give the impression of a Victorian bedroom. Upon the wall, created out of letters composed of insects is the well known children's rhyme,

 

 
 

Ladybug, ladybug
Fly away home
Your house is on fire
Your children are alone

 

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I was interested in creating a comfortable space yet there is something amiss. Beyond the discovery that the pleasing pattern of the wallpaper is composed of insects it is my intention that the "Ladybug" rhyme have wider implications. The "house on fire" can be read metaphorically for our world and an environment which is under assault by pollution, over population and war. The admonishment to "fly away home" serves to provoke us to reaction to care for one another and the land. A Place I Call Home suggests that we can cocoon ourselves from the outside world but passivity won't stop the house from burning down.

 

 
  Other Artists showing at this exhibit  
 

Gary Brewer, Catherine Chalmers, Sean Patrick Dockray, Sam Easterson, Thomas Eller, Jan Fabre, Samantha Fields, Tom Friedman, Tera Galanti, Joanne Howard, Sue Johnson, John Kalymnios, Nina Katchadourian, Ci Kim, Bill Logan, Paul Paiement, David Prochaska, Karen Reitzel, Bryan Ricci, Ken Rinaldo, Jim Rittiman, Alexis Rockman, Christy Rupp, Doug and Mike Starn, Nick Taggart, Sylvia Tidwell, Bing Wright, Amy Youngs

 

 
 
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John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Sheboygan Wisconsin USA
Summer 2004
 
 
 
 
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Chess sets by artists.

 

 
 
 

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John Michael Kohler Art Center
Sheboygan Wisconsin USA
Feb 29-Aug 15,2004
 
 
 
 
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The idea of discovery is the motivation behind Goliathus Hercules. In all of my installations viewers initially see a pattern upon the wall, however closer examination reveals that they are composed of insects. Understandably ideas about collecting and collections arise. The Victorian era was the heyday of collecting. What motivated the interest in collecting, so much so that in fact certain species were collected to death? The prestige of a large collection and the finest and most unusual specimens was enormous. While men of science worked in the field collecting, the wealthy sponsored expeditions and were the great accumulators.

 

 
 

Many people have asked me if the insects in my work are real. Answer: Yes. Have I collected them myself? Answer: No. They ask if I have painted them as they are such splendid colours. Answer: No. These questions at first surprised me. How could people expect me to run around with a net catching thousands of insects? Why would I bother or even have the time to painstakingly paint each of those bugs? These questions have motivated me to consider the lengths one might go to be an explorer and make a discovery which might catapult one to fame.

 

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Goliathus Hercules is the name of the fictitious insect I have discovered and collected! The name alludes to the Latin nomenclature insects are given, and obviously it is a very large and strong creature. The bigger the insect, the more awe and prestige it will garner. Goliathus Hercules was created with the body parts of other insects (in the great hoax tradition). Included in this exhbition is a diary I have created, a record of the explorer's arduous journey in the name of science and fame. Not coincidentally, the diary begins on April 1st. Diary Entries

 

 
 

One enters the exhibition hall which evokes a World's Fair type atmosphere. Within this room is a smaller one in which Goliathus Hercules is prominently displayed under a glass case upon a carved wooden table. The room is 12' square and is adorned with bug "wallpaper". As I have done previously, I created a repeating pattern on the wall composed of insects. The particular pattern falls into what is known in textile design as a "toile". Toiles have generally depicted historical landscapes and exotic "chinoiserie" motifs. The toile is created with insects put into unlikely narrative situations such as walking a tight rope, jumping rope and flying a kite. This alludes to the Victorian strategy of creating an interest in science by anthropomorphizing animals to provide a greater appeal for the public.

 

 
 

Besides Goliathus Hercules, other "rare" species created by myself are on display. While there is no text that outright says that Goliathus Hercules is a hoax there are many clues for the observant. Beyond the diary one such clue is to be found in a phrase, the letters of which are formed with insects and placed in shadow boxes upon the wall. It reads, "Come take up your hats and away let us haste to the Butterflies Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast." This is the opening line to what is considered the first children's story which was not a moral tale - The Butterflies Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast by William Roscoe, 1808. This exhibition blurs the lines between the real and imaginary, and for a moment one enters a world where anything is possible.

 

 
 
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