“Arranging Nature,” installations composed of insects pinned directly to a wall in repeating patterns which reference both textiles and wallpaper, will open Friday, Jan. 18, at NIU’s Jack Olson Gallery.
The exhibition was created by artist Jennifer Angus, a professor in the Design Studies department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“A tension is created by the beauty one observes in the pattern and the apprehension we feel toward insects. I know very few people who welcome insects into their home. In fact, we have a certain hysteria about them,” Angus says.
“Culturally, insects are a sign of dirtiness and disease. My work explores ideas of home and comfort. It alludes to the unseen world of dust mites, germs and bacteria, both friendly and not,” she adds.
“Despite this apprehension, I think it would be fair to say that the most common reaction to my work is wonder. While we as adults may harbor negative feelings about insects if we think back to childhood, probably most of us at one time attempted to collect caterpillars and butterflies. Indeed, there are plenty of famous insects in children’s literature, from the caterpillar on the hookah in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to the insect companions in ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ ”
She began these works a dozen years ago, drawing inspiration from several years of living in the “Golden Triangle,” where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet.
While researching tribal dress, she discovered a garment known as a “singing shawl,” worn by young women of the Karen tribe, that is embellished with metallic beetle wings in place of beads or sequins.
Her recent installations take inspiration from the Victorian era, however.
“It was a time of excitement. It was the age of travel, exploration, scientific discovery and the dawning of photography,” she says.
“Both adults and children were introduced to the natural world through a large number of educational publications in which various species of wildlife from insects to elephants were anthropomorphized so as to have greater appeal to the general reading public. Voracious collecting of all manner of plants and wildlife was extremely popular at that time.”
A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (BFA) and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), Angus has exhibited her work internationally including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Spain. Her exhibition “A Terrible Beauty” at the Textile Museum of Canada was selected as “Exhibition of the Year” by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries in 2006.
“Arranging Nature” is open through Thursday, Feb. 28, in the Olson Gallery, located in Room 200 of the Visual Arts Building. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to noon Friday. The gallery is part of the NIU School of Art.
For more information, call (815) 753-4521 or email pv[email protected].