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Insecta Homo

April 19, 2010

“Like an angry bee, covered in mud”

This quote, a listener’s description of Stephen MacDonald’s bass tone on the Broken Ohms debut recording, became the concept for a T-Shirt commission I did for Stephen. That india ink drawing in turn became the inspiration and visual template for the series Insecta Homo.

In black ink the “mud” looks very much like oil. For me the immediate association to this black slop-covered creature is the famous photographs of otters and seabirds coated in crude oil after the disastrous wreck of the Exxon Valdez. I think that in the case of a mammal or a bird or a fish, this association would carry an immediate pathos. At least for the generations present for the wreck of the Valdez, the embedded memory of the spill and its aftermath could trigger sadness, anger, and guilt. But on a locust or a dung beetle, what then?

I tried to find the same kind of pathos for the bee, tried to sympathize with it in the same way I might sympathize with a seal or even a salmon. It was because of that effort to “humanize” the bee that I decided to incorporate traces of human anatomy into the drawings, for example the breasts, mouth and hands of the Mantis or the spine of the Damsel Fly. It is also the source for the series’ title “Insecta Homo”.

In the drawings I chose not to make an obvious point of the connection to the Valdez. That connection was the spark for the series, but I wasn’t looking to make the images as commentary on the issue or its ethical and ecological questions. I like to think that this sub-text comes up for other people when looking at these images, but if it doesn’t I don’t want that to get in the way. I think even without it these pieces pack enough punch to warrant a close look.

Each image was presented as a one-off 16in x 20in vector print, made from an india ink drawing. The series was exhibited November of 2008 at Cornwallis Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The pieces can be seen here on my portfolio site.

A few of these prints are still available for sale, please email me to inquire.

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