Imagine making a work of art and not even realizing you’ve made it. That might not be something most artists have to wrestle with, but if you are a darkling beetle or a monarch butterfly and you’ve just finished a canvas, that’s probably reality.
Under the careful guidance of entomologist, artist, and Hollywood bug wrangler Steven Kutcher, six-legged insects, eight-legged arachnids, and other creatures craft abstract compositions, some of which might be compared to the work of professional artists — at least, if you didn’t know any better. On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6, Kutcher makes appearances at Calliope in Madrid, New Mexico, and demonstrates exactly how he gets the bugs’ creative juices flowing in The Bug Show: The Unusual Collaborative Art of Steven Kutcher.
If you’ve seen Arachnophobia, Lost Highway, or Mimic, then you’ve seen Kutcher’s expert corralling before. But you’ve never seen anything quite like this. Carefully holding the insects and spiders, Kutcher coats their legs or other body parts with nontoxic water-based paint, or just has them walk through the pigment, and then lets them loose on the paper. He typically works with only one species per composition. It’s a delicate procedure, directing the insects to move so that the paint is transferred to the paper as he also tries to prevent them from accidentally consuming the pigment. When the work is done, he cleans them off using a variety of techniques, depending on the type of pigment used. The creatures are not harmed. Kutcher generally chooses large arthropods that are easy to raise in captivity. His stable of insects includes honeybees, hissing cockroaches, tiger moths, mealworm beetles, sarcophagid flies, and rose hair tarantulas.
The demonstrations take place from 3 to 6 p.m. both days. An exhibition of the bug art will remain on display through Nov. 4. Calliope is located at 2876 Main Street (N.M. 14) in Madrid. Call 505-474-7564 or visit calliopemadrid.com for more information.