The Art of Science: The Antsy Art of Loren Kronemyer

Brain, from Myriad, 2012
Brain, from Myriad, 2012

Ants fascinate humans with their strength, their adaptability and their astonishing ability to work together to achieve goals. Artist Loren Kronemyer enlisted large groups of them to create her 2012 project, Myriad.

Kronemyer draws on paper with pheromones, then releases ants onto the paper. The ants, drawn to the scent, briefly cooperate in completing her designs before going back to their own patterns of movement. The artist explains that her projects explore “the notion of living drawing” as a collaboration showing the interplay of insect and human intelligence. Kronemyer, who has also created drawings with living tissues, says:

“The ant colony is a superorganism, a system with its own intelligence made up of many individuals, and the tissue is a fragment of an individual that is itself made up of many discreet living entities. I sit somewhere in the middle, meddling with both yet at the same time responsible for caring for them and keeping them alive.” (source)

The various works in Myriad are full of life and movement. The image of the brain, in particular, works as a great visual metaphor for a short attention span, or perhaps a sudden realization.  Kronemyer, an American who moved to Australia to work with SymbioticA Lab, says that “at a certain point I stopped being interested in just representing living systems, and wanted to work with the systems themselves.” It’s a long way from paint and marble, yet the visual delight of her work keeps it from simply becoming a science-fair project and plants it firmly in the territory of art.

You can see more of Loren Kronemyer’s work at her website.

Art of Science: A Moth’s Brief Life in Art


Artist Elsabé Dixon grew up raising silkworms in cardboard boxes as a child in South Africa.  Now based in Virginia, Dixon has made her childhood hobby the source of her art, now on display in a unique residency and installation called LIVE/LIFE at Arlington’s Artisphere through February 22.

In the Artisphere studio, Dixon and helpers first constructed an environment for domesticated silkworms (Bombyx mori) to live out a life cycle – hatching from eggs to caterpillars, eating mulberry leaves, spinning cocoons, pupating, mating and dying – and then created sculpture using what was left behind, including twigs, empty cocoons, salt and even silkworm poop.

Detail from LIVE/LIFE, Elsabe Dixon, Mixed Media, 2014-15
Detail from LIVE/LIFE, Elsabe Dixon, Mixed Media, 2014-15

Dixon sees the life cycle of the Bombyx mori – the only truly domesticated insect in the world – as a means of investigating many aspects of life. The first and most obvious is the ephemeral and ever-changing nature of life, but the work examines many other issues, including our relationships with society, nature and the built environment.

There are no barriers between the insects and the audience here. Visitors in the earlier months of the residency were free to touch the caterpillars and the moths. When I visited earlier in January, the moths were all dead, but I was able to touch the silk cocoons left behind.

The sculptural installation that Dixon has constructed, first for the silkworms to live in and then using their products and detritus, is based on microscopic photographs of silkworm particles. Made from materials including rubber, cut-up cardboard paper towel  tubes, discarded silk cocoons, mulberry branches and, yes, piles of caterpillar poop, the installation looks organic, natural, and utterly at home in its modern-art setting.

LIVE/LIFE is open to the public Thursday and Friday evenings as well as Sunday afternoons, when the artist welcomes visitors to join in conversations with her and others in the field of art, medicine, engineering and food production.

The Art of Science: Ants Are People, Too

Rafael Gomezbarros, Casa Tomada, 2014Photo by David Levene
Rafael Gomezbarros, Casa Tomada, 2014    Photo by David Levene

Ants are crawling over the walls of London’s Saatchi Gallery. No, the cleaners aren’t on strike; the ants are an installation by Colombian artist Rafael  Gómezbarros, part of a group exhibition called Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America.

If you look closely, you will see that the bodies of the ants, each of which is 50 CM (about 19 inches) long, are made up of casts of human skulls in fiberglass and resin.  For the artist, the ants represent  the millions of immigrants traveling the earth in search of a home.  In particular, Gómezbarros  pays tribute to thousands of Colombians who suffered internal displacement and violent deaths in the armed conflicts that have convulsed his country over the past five decades.  His ants have taken over the facades of several important buildings in Colombia, including the National Congress building in Bogotá.

Why ants? It’s easy to see why they work well as a stand-in for the teeming masses of immigrants. Humble, hardworking and capable of building complex social organizations, ants are also unfortunately easy for larger animals to snack on or crush underfoot.  But ants are resilient, too. They are able to “farm” their own foodstuffs, band together to kill much larger species, and create rafts of their own bodies to float in water. Ants are survivors.

Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America is on view at the Saatchi gallery through August 31. You can see photos of the ants crawling on other buildings at Gómezbarros’ website




The Art of Science: Insectopia in Paris

A pied-a-terre for the six-legged
A pied-a-terre for the six-legged

A pair of Parisian designers has one-upped Brandon Ballengée’s Love Motel for Insects (featured here last year) by building  snazzy condos for some lucky French bugs. The Insectopia installation, by Quentin Vaulot and Goliath Dyèvre, consists of tightly-packed wooden “houses” for insects, mounted on poles in parks in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. From a distance, they resemble trees; closer up, they look a bit like Laputa, the flying island from Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky.  Vaulot and Dyèvre say that their intention was both to foster urban biodiversity and to “provoke an emotion” in people who interact with the art, by drawing attention to a world that is largely invisible but in constant motion. No word yet on which lucky insects have moved into Insectopia, or if the quiet, hardworking ants are complaining about the noisy cicadas upstairs.  If any of our readers are in Paris, please go look and report back with photos.

Photo: Vaulot & Dyèvre, HT to Inhabitat

The Art of Science: Cicada Invasion


The eastern part of the US is bracing for hundreds of millions of visitors this spring – the Brood II cicadas, which emerge from underground only every 17 years. The “coming frenzy of sex and death,” as the Washington Post put it, is the largest since Brood X emerged in the summer of 2004. That year, many artists from the area used the cicadas’ discarded carapaces, which lay on the ground in thousands all over the region, in their artwork.  So I went to look for cicada-based art, and found a few interesting things. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Cicada Invasion”

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