Image: Detail from Jennifer Angus’ exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, courtesy of Jennifer Angus.
Recall the fable of the grasshopper and the ant: the ant labored all summer to prepare for the fall and winter, while the grasshopper whiled away his days playing music for himself and his friends. The traditional moral of the story is to admire the industry of the ant and frown on the seeming irresponsibility of the grasshopper. But Jennifer Angus wants you to think about that tale differently.
“What if there were no music? Should we value only commodities and what nourishes the body, to the exclusion of that which nourishes the soul?” Angus presses her audience to consider questions like this, particularly in a time of dire environmental catastrophes, and she does it… with insects.
For the last few months, Jennifer Angus has been hard at work in the SoHE studios and the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (MFA) to prepare and install her latest show, which will also be her largest ever, ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ and Other Stories, as Told by Jennifer Angus. Using thousands of dried insect bodies meticulously arranged in captivating patterns across a wall or in charming, human-like scenes, she draws viewers in with beauty or humor, then invites them to question their understanding of beauty and their role in global-scale environmental destruction—as well as their opportunity to counteract those negative impacts.
None of the insects Angus uses is endangered. Instead, they are farm-raised or collected by Indigenous people in their countries of origin, which include Madagascar, Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. She often reuses insects from one show to another, too, and when she comes upon an insect no longer intact, she finds other uses for it, whether as a “hybrid creature” or in separate displays.
“E.O. Wilson said that insects are ‘the little thing that run the world,’” Angus shares. “There is much to be gained by studying and appreciating insects, noting that collective transformational changes are possible one small individual at a time.”
The exhibit will run October 12, 2019, through January 5, 2020. Learn more about it, including about related programming throughout the fall and early winter.