University of Wisconsin professor Jennifer Angus puts a creative twist on an ancient medium. With an extensive background in textiles, a love for insects and a universal message of ecological insight she has lovingly pieced together these brilliant wallpaper patterns. The designs are so precise that newcomers to the WONDER exhibit at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum could be forgiven for mistaking the walls for a printed pattern, and not some masterpiece of taxidermy.
The exhibit represents a deceptively beautiful and cheery aesthetic considering the medium. The bright fuchsia walls and festive patterns are a source of visual dissonance - something beautiful and uplifting created quite literally of dead bodies. The artist plays with this idea further in her choice of symbolism which she uses to drive her points home. In her own words:
“For my installation at the Renwick Gallery, the pattern’s central motifs are skulls, composed of hundreds of weevils and small beetles. Throughout history the skull image has been a universal symbol of man’s mortality. It can be found on tombstones, warning labels, biker jackets, t-shirts and emblazed in rhinestones on high fashion garments. The image implies a kind of edginess, rebellion, danger and devil may care attitude. Given that my work requires hundreds of specimens it seems highly appropriate to reference a charged symbol associated with death. Yet ultimately I am referencing man’s fragility or ephemeral state on this planet.”
“We need insects to survive. They pollinate flowers that in turn produce fruit. Seventy percent of the food we consume is the result of insect pollination. The world is starting to wake up to the devastating tragedy that awaits us all if colony collapse, the death of millions and millions of honeybees goes on unabated. The role of insects in decomposing matter is not to be underestimated either. Our world would become a massive trash heap without insects and the human race would no longer exist.”All images courtesy of Jennifer Angus