"Creative Footprint" encompasses, explores and examines the ways in which we and other creatures leave marks on culture and community. Created by Marc Dennis, artist, professor, Holocaust researcher, and bug chef.
Many artists have contributed to the development of insect awareness by including bugs in their works, in particular still-life paintings.
Balthasar van der Ast, Still-Life of Flowers, Shells, and Insects, 1635, Oil on panel, 24 x 35 cm, Private collection
The flowers may also be strewn on a table, bound together or juxtaposed with other objects such as seashells as we see here above in a painting by Balthasar van der Ast from around 1635.
The dead wasp on the far lower right section in conjunction with the single strewn flower and the approaching spider are all likely to symbolize life’s brevity.
In addition and just as significant a caterpillar centrally located in the lower half juxtaposed with a butterfly with wings spread as it alights a flower in the upper section directly above the caterpillar, specifically evoked the idea of rebirth from a cocoon or tomb.
In the painting above by Otto Marseus van Schrieck, we see at least seven species of moths and butterflies fluttering about like nightlights against a very dark backdrop.
They all serve as symbols of hope against darkness, while one of the butterflies with orange markings is just about to be consumed by a snake.
In its entirety this painting may symbolize inevitable death. Or it may hold a surprise symbol.
Because a butterfly with its wings splayed symbolized the resurrection of the soul, death in this case could also be considered a kind of salvation – an entry into heaven.
And at the same time, a dragonfly whizzes in from the upper right corner of the painting poised to strike at one of the unsuspecting butterflies, symbolic perhaps of not knowing when our time will come.
Abraham Mignon, Still Life with Fruit, Foliage, and Insects, about 1669, oil on canvas
Abraham Mignon’s painting above entitled, Still Life with Fruit, Foliage, and Insects, dated from about 1669, oil on canvas looks like an image of beautiful foliage, pretty flowers, and full leaves.
Look at it. Upon a closer look however the flowers don’t appear so wonderful, but rather a bit scary.
The leaves appear as though they’ve been chewed on and the fruit is decaying. The scene is teeming with bugs and other creatures.
A yellowish moth clings to a vine while a nearby plum is infested with some kind of worm-like critter.
In the meantime three snails creep along the lower half of the image, two on either side of the foreground and one in the center.
A black and orange beetle can be seen crawling on a broken architectural motif in the foreground, a clear symbol of how human life is indeed transient.
The creeping and hidden insects and animals, the predatory nature of each, the damaged leaves and rotting fruit, the overwhelming amount of flora, and the overall tumbling composition all refers to the idea that in time everything must pass away.
And everything does.
Paintings like the ones displayed above depict the natural world in all its beauty and danger, serving as metaphors for life -- images that offer the viewer much to think about in terms of their own challenges and struggles and most importantly the inevitability of change.
Through images and symbolism art informs, adds, changes or removes something in order to communicate with the mind and heart in a way reality does not or cannot.
Marc Dennis can be reached here.