Unlike most New Yorkers, Brandon Ballengée wants to spend more time with bugs. At night. In fact, he wants everyone to. This fall the artist and research biologist, who teaches in the BFA Fine Arts and Humanities and Sciences departments at SVA, is getting his way with an outdoor installation, Love Motel for Insects, in New York’s Central Park.
Ballengée’s installation is part of the exhibition “Notched Bodies: Insects in Contemporary Art,” in which 11 contemporary artists explore the importance of insects through a variety of media. Consisting of enormous sculpted canvases shaped like dragonfly wings and illuminated by ultra-violet lights, the work attracts many species of moths, beetles, Hemiptera (True Bugs) and other nocturnal arthropods.
And what do New Yorkers make of them? “People genuinely seem to enjoying a side of nature many of them have never seen. Nocturnal arthropods are visually fascinating and tell us a lot about the ecological health of our city,” says Ballengée, who currently teaches The Science of Bugs: An introduction to Arthropodology.
Love Motel for Insects is an ongoing series that started in 2001 in Costa Rica, and has since taken the artist to Delhi, London, Venice and Loch Ness (Scotland), among other venues. The original structures were made from black lights and bed sheets; today, they use ultra-violet lighting on black canvas backgrounds. In creating an opportunity for the public to observe rarely seen and often misunderstood organisms, each installation responds to the ecology specific to its site. The next Love Motel opens in Louisville, Kentucky as part of 2013 The Art and Ideas Festival, and future sites include Argentina, Denmark and Spain.
Images: Brandon Ballengée, Love Motel for Insects: Anax Junius Variation, daytime view courtesy NYC Parks; nighttime view courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York; one of the guests at a 2012 installation in Chelsea, photo Brandon Ballengée .