‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ and Other Stories at the MFA features crawly creatures as art

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Ecology, bugs, Aesop’s Fables and art.

Installation artist Jennifer Angus’ show, The Grasshopper and the Ant and Other Stories, manages to combine these seemingly disparate elements in her largest installation ever on exhibit through Jan. 5, 2020, at the Museum of Fine Art (MFA).

Angus happens to be a professor of Textiles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but one look glance at her creative output proves she’s got a thing for bugs.

Much of her work incorporates fanciful displays of giant insects – mostly various beetles, but also in unexpected ways while examining the vital, if fraught, relationship humans have with the insect world.

“I seek to rehabilitate the image of insects and draw correlations between humans and members of the six-legged kingdom. The fear we have of insects is generally unwarranted,” Angus was quoted for the exhibit.

“Their role in the environment is vital [to human survival], whether it be in the pollination of flowers, which in turn produce the fruits we so enjoy or the decomposition of matter. Insects are both beautiful and essential.”

Visitors are guided through the rooms by quaint calling cards that capture illustrated bugs in human settings, along with the quote from one of Aesop’s Fables.

Entering the exhibit, one passes through a darkened space where stacks of jars along one wall hold various species of insects suspended in multicolored gels, reminiscent of the way human body parts were held in specimen jars in Victorian laboratories.

This Victorian theme is present throughout the exhibit, lending a kind of antique feel to the nearly 7,000-square-foot gallery space, filled with Angus’ amazing creatures, pinned along walls in amazing and intricate patterns.

Whether displayed on walls in elaborate patterns, caught under glass globes in human-like poses, or staged in drawers in the “cabinets of curiosity,” which boast mini-furniture, plastic animals, and other props which the bugs model alongside, Angus’ attention to detail and the intricacy of the design is stunning.

Glass cases filled with various animal skulls, dried flora, and dead-fauna-remains starkly remind us of the cycle of life and eventual death of all things – encouraging us to wonder how much humans have to do with the destruction of the wildlife around us.

In yet another room, visitors are treated to an “animal dinner party” where stuffed deer, foxes and squirrels sit at a table set with china and candles, serving vegetables, bread, and of course, bugs.

Working with insects-as-art for nearly 20 years, Angus now has thousands of bugs in her collection, which she recycles and uses in different displays. She uses bug species that plentiful – not endangered – and often farm-raised, mostly from Madagascar, Malaysia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea.

This one-of-a-kind exhibit shouldn’t be missed, and it will be open throughout the winter holiday – so be sure to take the whole family to this ecologically mindful and magically enchanting bug-a-palooza!

MFA is located at 255 Beach Drive N.E. Hours: Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10-5 p.m.; Thursday from 10-8 p.m. and Sundays from noon-5 p.m.

For more information, please call 727.896.2667 or visit mfastpete.org.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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