Throughout history and across cultures, insects have inspired artists to create artwork that celebrates the beauty of and challenges viewers to shift their perspectives on these magnificent and essential creatures. Insects are everywhere. Three out of four species on Earth are insects. They are, by far, the most common animals on our planet: more than 1.5 million species of insects have been identified. Without insects, our lives would be vastly different. Insects pollinate our fruits, flowers, and vegetables. They are essential as primary or secondary decomposers, and they are a major food source for amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Shannon Amidon's exhibit Agents of Nature is a love letter to the critical roles that insects play in the environment. Her elegant works made from a variety of natural elements such as encaustic, gold leaf, pyrite, insect wings, and vintage ephemera celebrate the many contributions insects make to the natural world. These numerous and delicate pieces hold a hint of warning of what can be lost to future generations. Her emphatic use of encaustic is particularly poignant as this ancient medium of molten beeswax used throughout history since the ancient Greek and Egyptian times cannot exist without the survival of bees. By portraying the cycles of life, death, and impermanence in her work, Amidon calls attention to the importance of insects, inviting viewers to see nature not as a backdrop but as a vital element of our existence.
As an encaustic artist, I am keenly attuned to the bond between art and nature; honeybees produce the wax I use for my encaustic paint. But there are other reasons that I explore natural history and environmental issues through my artwork: my formative years involved a substantial amount of time surrounded by and exploring nature.
Those childhood roots in the natural world stimulated my personal, political, and aesthetic concern with our current ecological challenges. Concerned about all aspects of the environment, I find myself responding with increasing alarm to intensive farming and urbanisation, pesticide use, introduced species, and other triggers of climate change. Consequently, my artwork places a particular focus on the decline of pollinators and other insects due to the loss and destruction of their habitats. Insects serve very important roles to humans and our environment, supporting the food web, pollinating plants, disposing of waste, and cycling nutrients.
I use my curiosity about these ecological interconnections to create paintings and installations that draw attention to our environmental crises. Through images of bees, honeycombs, dragonflies, moths, and other flora and fauna, I put my encaustic materials to emphatic use—these pieces not only portray a threatened world, but they also call attention to the fact that the very medium of encaustic cannot exist without the survival of bees. By portraying the cycles of life, death, and impermanence in my work, I hope to raise awareness about environmental issues, inviting my audience to see nature not as a backdrop but as a vital element of our existence.
Virtual 3-D walk through of Shannon's exhibition