Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer Bugs

What a wonderful summer! Full of fun, nature and art. In June, I worked with high school teachers in West Virginia as an Advanced Placement Summer Institute consultant. We looked at student work and contemporary art, talked about teaching strategies, and they made beautiful things. My goal was to help reconnect them with them with their inner art makers in this studio-based professional development week. It was an intense and beautiful experience.

This picture was taken on the last day of Mary Jane one of my wonderful students (and new friend) after we reassembled the art room at St Albans High School.

I also got to teach at the Wexner Center for the Arts and Columbus School for Girls. At each place I worked with 3rd-5th grade children and we focused on art and nature. My own amazing child was able to participate in both programs. It was a blessing to get to spend so much time with him and his contemporaries this summer.

Dr. Terry Barrett’s course Stories: Narrative Inquiry in Art Education at The Ohio State University offered me a chance to be a student. It was a profound learning experience. This is the link to the blog created, featuring the presentations and writings of the participants. It was a one week intensive and on Friday I read a poem I wrote titled Mulberry Leaves and Heroin

I have continued to create imagery and objects pertaining to houses, silkworms and moths. Two broods of silkworms have completed their cycles since May, and a third brood just hatched on Tuesday, August 31. In this pic you can see them coming out of their freckle sized eggs.

In three days they have more than doubled in size. They will grow from a sixteenth of an inch to more than 3 ½ inches in 4 weeks, take about a week to spin their cocoons, two weeks to transform once they are inside, and come out as moths, ready to mate and lay eggs in ten precious days of adulthood. For now, I feed them fresh mulberry leaves from my yard throughout the day and night. Two adult moths still live out their final hours in the house structure from the brood that hatched in July.
In my art, I use the insects as biological metaphors for psychological states and relationships in humans. Below, I have a series of images of the insects in the houses. My husband crafted the newest house out of discarded wood as I art directed. I am lucky to have him as a creative collaborator. I have documented the insects with over a dozen hours of video footage. I hope to edit it into something or somethings soon.

This was taken before the moths started to emerge and lay their eggs. You can see a fully grown silkworm searching for its spot to spin. Many die in this stage, unable to find a place that satisfies them, they use all of their energy seeking.

This female moth is just emerging from her cocoon. She struggled to get out for hours, but found a mate in less than 5 minutes. She never left this little spot and laid her eggs right on her cocoon. You can see her in the bottom right of the image. The vacated cocoon at the top was from her mate.
This is one of the first females that emerged. They "call" by spraying a pheromone to attract a mate. She saturated this whole area before a male emerged and located her. Later, the same mate got confused by the lingering scent and spent the rest of his life searching under the bed. This female had a total of three mates. Two ended up under the bed. You can see the tattered male by the bed post in the center of this image.

She laid her eggs on the bed itself. At first, the eggs are a pale yellow. If fertilized, they turn dark.

This complex object holds life and death. Moth House does as well. Between the two houses I have more than 100 cocoons. This moth got caught in the "web" of the other cocoons that were spun after its cocoon and died in the trap.

I am sorry that so many die as they try to make it to adulthood. I feel sad that they cannot live in the wild and that humans have bred them to have short, flightless wings. But, ultimately, documenting these dramas give me hope. They connect me with the tiny world of insects that most people ignore or reject. Watching helps me understand the human behavior I participate in and witness. And I think their small soft bodies and docile personalities are beautiful.


  1. Brooke, your poem was so powerful. And of course to me it's about so much more than the moths, which is what is so wonderful about it. It means whatever it means to the reader, that's what art is about, right? Thought provoking to be sure.


  2. wow that was amazing!!!