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Reformation: Art Herstory and the Moth

Updated: Jan 29



My ideas for this series have evolved over many years. When I was a child, I decided that the moth was more interesting to me than the butterfly. I found it wildly unfair that they were ALWAYS passed over for the latter. I would spend hours collecting (then naming and releasing) colorful Cinnabar caterpillars. From historical references to depictions in pop culture, the butterfly is repeatedly celebrated over the moth despite the fact that they only comprise 11 percent of Order Lepidoptera.

 

With a wide spectrum of cultural symbolism to draw from at the beginning of this journey, I began to find more and more artistic inspiration. Moths are tied to the moon in their largely nocturnal presence, guided by and continuously striving toward the light. Moths spin silk in preparation for change. They leave behind this valuable contribution when they emerge from a painful time of transformation. They are strong and resilient, yet vulnerable, with a wide range of exceptional beauty in their many unique designs. Their differences are a thing to be celebrated and honored. Generations have worked so very hard, often in the dark. It is a legacy of immense worth living in a dignified, often quiet, strength. What symbolism indeed.

I read an article years ago about the female pioneers of Abstract Expressionism. It highlighted the contributions these women made while their male counterparts got all the recognition and went down in the history books as the stars of the movement. Like a bolt of lightning, I saw the parallel clearly in my mind. The moth and the woman artist. I began to explore the idea further, endlessly grateful that I had access to records and that we are now finally learning much more about their contributions. There were entire movements of art where women played a major role, but history either forgot them or failed to acknowledge their work altogether. It’s been happening since the beginning. According to the opinions of recent scholars, the first cave paintings in Lascaux were likely made by the hands of women.

 

The moth has become my symbol for underrepresentation, to be used time and again as an important narrative in my work. It continues to provide a way for me to have recurring visual discussions with my viewer and invite them into important, necessary, and multi-layered cultural conversations. Imagery can often say what words cannot.

 

Each piece within the ‘Reformation’ series began with a charcoal portrait surrounded by or cloaked in a visual quotation or a sampled motif of a female artist’s work. A moth is either drawn, painted, or photo collaged into the composition. The titles of the individual works reflect the Latin name of the featured species, followed by the artist dedication. Each is ultimately a love-letter to the women who paved the way. The series concept presents the modern portraits of women from all walks of life to symbolize the larger connection of sisterhood and generations of our shared experiences.

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