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Volume XXVIII, Number 5943
Monday, Sep 16, 2013

Notched Bodies: Insects In Contemporary Art On View At Arsenal Gallery

Ben Snead, Beetle Frequency, 2000, Oil paint on linen; 64 x 74 inches,
Ben Snead, Beetle Frequency, 2000, Oil paint on linen; 64 x 74 inches,
courtesy of Feature Inc. and the artist

NYC Parks is pleased to present Notched Bodies: Insects in Contemporary Art, on view through November 13 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. The exhibition features eleven contemporary artists who offer probing personal interpretations on the importance of insects through a variety of media: Brandon Ballengée, Joianne Bittle, Rebecca Clark, Emilie Clark, Talia Greene, Asuka Hishiki, Julian Montague, Lisa Murch, Julia Oldham, Christy Rupp, and Ben Snead. The show is curated by Jennifer Lantzas, NYC Parks’ Public Art Coordinator.

This exhibition takes its name from ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s classification of insects by their similar traits: six legs and clearly segmented or “notched” bodies. Humans have had a long and complex relationship with insects. Their alien appearance can be jarring or off-putting, but upon closer inspection insects are works of art. They are often seen as pests or invaders; however, their critical role in our ecosystem and daily lives is increasingly clear as urban farming, gardening, and the impact of syndromes like Colony Collapse Disorder become prevalent. Insects are keen indicators of the health of our environment. They help break down and decompose rotting materials, which reintroduces rich nutrients into the soil. They are also the first line of defense against invasive plants and other harmful insects.

Comprising nearly 80% of the species on the planet, the immense diversity among this animal class has provided artists with a wealth of inspiration for centuries. Contemporary artists have been equally enamored with insects for their brilliant colors and forms, unique behaviors, environmental significance, as well as social parallels and cultural commentary. Wasps, beetles, butterflies, cicadas, ants, and crickets are some of the insects examined in the show.

Located on the Arsenal lawn, Brandon Ballengée’s outdoor light installation creates interactions between nocturnal arthropods and humans. In the gallery, Joianne Bittle’s Goliath Beetle is removed from his natural surroundings and placed on a gold background, referencing religious icons from the Byzantine era. A botanic wallpaper installation by Talia Greene is inhabited by a colony of weaver ants, illustrating our vain attempts to impose order on the natural world. Faux books and records designed by Julian Montague document the hypothetical history of pest control. In her videos, Julia Oldham translates insects’ behaviors into choreographed performances. Ben Snead paints insects in geometric patterns—a personal classification system based on aesthetics rather than science. Rebecca Clark, Emilie Clark, Asuka Hishiki, Lisa Murch, and Christy Rupp also present diverse artworks that herald insects as fascinating creatures to be studied, understood and celebrated.

A series of related programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition Notched Bodies. Admission is free but seating is limited. To RSVP, please email

Tuesday, October 8, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Michael Feller, Chief Naturalist at Parks’ Natural Resources Group will present a lecture on the insects you can find in New York City.

Wednesday, October 30, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Artists Joianne Bittle, Emilie Clark, Julia Oldham, and Benjamin Snead will discuss how their fascination with insects impacts their artwork.

Saturday, November 9, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. NYC Parks will present a screening of insect-themed animated shorts for children.

The Arsenal Gallery is dedicated to examining themes of nature, urban space, wildlife, New York City parks and park history. It is located on the third floor of the Parks Department Headquarters, in Central Park, on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information on the Arsenal Gallery, please call 212-360-8163.


“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”

Roald Dahl
(1916 - 1990)
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