Insects is another of the altered books I made from the Life Nature Library series. When modifying the original book, The Insects, I wanted to recall my experience with the entomology collection at the Royal Ontario Museum. When I was twelve I was introduced to the joys of what I called “the drawer room”. I wanted to simulate the experience of opening cases to look at trays of pinned specimens. Hidden inside the cabinets were trays full of glorious coloured butterflies and beetles and bizarre looking stick insects and more kinds of bees then I could have imagined. There were, of course more boring trays full of flies and such, but I did not spend a lot of time with them.
The piece is enclosed in a four-sided (open-ended) case that closes with a ribbon tie. I had the paste paper custom made for the project by Susan Kristoferson of Calgary, Alberta.
The bases of the individual trays are built from a double layer of foam core covered in index pages from the book. This was inserted into a book board tray lined with more text pages, topped with Plexiglass, then wrapped in more of Susan’s paste paper to resemble the trays I had looked at in the museum.
The trays are stacked so that there is increasing disorder in the display —a nod to the ‘butterfly effect’— and also ordered by colour so that they go from brightest to dullest. The individual coloured butterflies were cut so that, as far as possible, they have symmetrical patterning.
As a way of incorporating other insects from the book into the piece, the small text butterflies have the name of an insect other than a butterfly or moth, or a related word such as ‘caterpillar’ on them. All of the butterflies scattered on the inside lining of the case say ‘beetle’.
Like the other works in this series, the piece is about the human need to name, collect, and quantify the universe. There is also a small hint at humanity’s impact on other species.