Endangered Beauty

“A power of Butterfly must be –
The Aptitude to fly
Meadows of Majesty concedes
And easy Sweeps of Sky -”
― Emily Dickinson

I have some very exciting news to share, but before I get into that, I wanted to talk about how important butterflies and moths are to life on Earth, and to humanity as a whole. You might be curious as to why I have dedicated so much time and paint on butterflies and moths, and why I find them so fascinating. First and foremost, butterflies and moths have been around for at least 50 million years, and first evolved around 150 million years ago. Their transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis is truly one of the miracles of nature. Butterflies and moths are an important group of organisms that have been used for many years for research in navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, population dynamics and biodiversity conservation. They are also indicators of the health of an ecosystem and the environment. They are important pollinators, so are important in the maintenance of our food supplies. Butterflies and moths are chock full of natural chemical defenses that are currently being studied for their potential value in medications such as antibiotics. To top it all off butterflies and moths are beautiful!

Sadly, there has been a worldwide decline in many butterfly and moth species due to habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, disease and invasive plants.

I recently completed a piece called “Flight at First Light” which features 12 different species of butterflies, plus a few pulled out of my own imagination. The butterflies in this painting include:

  1. Common Red Glider (Cymothoe coccinata)
  2. Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)
  3. Red Agrias (Agrias claudina)
  4. Peacock Swallowtail (Papilio ulysses)
  5. Blue banded morpho (Morpho achillies)
  6. Purple Emporer (Apatura iris)
  7. Rhetenor Blue Morpho (Morpho rhetenor)
  8. Giant Blue Morpho (Morpho didius)
  9. Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)
  10. Small Cabbage White (Pierus rapae)
  11. Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
  12. Yellow Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Of these species, the Blue Morpho’s are the most severely threatened, and some, like the Purple Emporer are medium priority species for conservation. Still others, like the Small Cabbage White are predicted to become extinct by 2050. These statistics serve as a poignant reminder of the consequences of our industrialized world, the dangers of climate change and our growing population.

Now for my wonderful news…I am so very excited to share that I have been chosen as one of the featured artists at the Saanich Municipal Hall for 2016! My exhibit is slated for the month of August. When I first applied for consideration, I had grappled with the content of my exhibit. I have been itching to finally have an outlet for my Equus series, but decided to save that for a later date. This exhibition will be the final outlet for my Lepidoptera series with a few orchid and water lily pieces for good measure. I’ve named the exhibit “Bloomin’ Lovely” (of course), which I believe is very fitting given the fact that Victoria is famously known as “The Garden City!”

With my piece, “Flight at First Light” shown below, I created the illusion of depth by putting texture on the entire canvas (using light molding paste), by layering the paint and using metallic shimmer in the background,  adding iridescence to the butterflies, as well as layering the butterflies themselves. I wish the photo really captured the iridescence that I attempted to add to the butterfly wings, but the full effect is only captured when the audience walks around the painting. I love and am truly fascinated by the iridescence of butterfly wings! In fact, the iridescence in a butterfly’s wings is a miracle of nature in itself. The iridescence is caused by the presence of biological photonic crystals called ‘gyroids’ found in the wing scales, only seen with the help of scanning and transmission electron microscopy (as far as I know). Very difficult to capture, but iridescent medium helps me to create a similar effect. I believe the movement in the piece is captured with the swoop of the entire flock. I really tried to make the colors mimic that of the rising sun at dawn. And of course no butterfly migration piece of mine would be complete without my token dragonfly and scarab. Do you see them in the painting? They are my son’s favorite aspects of the piece!

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