You might mistake Amy Swartz for an entomologist, a scientist who pins insects onto boards for categorization and display. But she’s a trickster, an artist with a wicked sense of humour who fuses tiny toy heads and bodies onto flies, beetles, butterflies and bees.
Her 2,500 altered insects form irreverent collages in the traditional glass-topped cases that museums use. The three-year compilation started when she idly pinned the head of a toy soldier from her husband’s childhood onto a dead insect in her kitchen and called it “Moth Man.” (Below: An exhibit at Angell Gallery, Toronto)
On now at Cambridge Galleries, Swartz’s Pest exhibit gives human characteristics to the tiny creatures in displays that mimic fantastic battles or represent the larger issues of environment, death, and consumer culture.
Swartz constructs a world where monstrous butterflies are herded by a game crew of winged warriors, or warrior bees stand off against a rag-tag crew of lesser bugs in an epic entomological confrontation. -From a review contained in Exhibition Notes for an upcoming show
Swartz says her collections are intended to foster a sense of wonder and intimacy with the natural, imaginary and everyday world that is generally overlooked.
This work is my reflection on the restrained chaos of life, our own pest-like behavior as a species, as well as our absurd attempt to control the natural world and our mortality. My intention is for this work to serve as a metaphor for overpopulation and extinction while at the same time retaining the sense of life’s beauty and eccentricity.
Below, the pins carry names of communities in the sensitive Niagara Escarpment, a world biosphere reserve.
All of the insects used in Swartz’s art died of natural causes and some have been donated to the artist.
Amy Swartz is a Toronto-based visual artist with an MFA from York University, a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and a BA from Trent University in Cultural Studies.
See her C.V. here.