Jennifer Angus is a Canadian artist who’s work wow’s visitors with displays of thousands of insects. As a grad student I worked as her Project Assistant at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I have installed and de-installed over a dozen exhibitions with her. It’s safe to say that I know her work very well, but recently, I had the opportunity to experience it from new perspective, solely as a viewer.
The Mad Art Gallery is located in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, WA, with a nearby view of the iconic Space Needle. Angus recently spent a month in the spacious gallery while installing her latest work, Super Natural.
I visited during the opening event. Walking in to the space was electric, people were buzzing with excitement, everyone was scattered about the installation, almost oblivious to each other as they focused in on the small worlds presented before them. For the first time I began to truly understand the bigger picture of how Angus’ work plays with that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sense of scale.
Actual insects, dead, positioned, and preserved, infiltrate the gallery, small but mighty in their bold color and number. The insects are everywhere, on the walls, in display cases, inside curio cabinets, bell jars, and on large columns occupying the space. It is almost overwhelming. Any direction you turn, there is a small world of wonder to explore and get lost in.
Angus’ work evolves from one installation to the next, and if you are paying attention, new additions become evident. In this work, new and intriguing elements include reproductions of hand-made Italian marble papers serving as camouflage backdrops to fantastically patterned beetles. Ornate jars, filled with various hues of honey, now also contain insects held in place and magnified by the curvature of the glass and honey. Fifteen columns, specific to the Mad Art Gallery installation, are randomly placed throughout. These provide the feel of a forest, towering above, reaching towards the galleries high ceiling, your gaze is encouraged upward.
For those attending the opening, we shared a rare opportunity to listen to the artist talk about her work. She points out victorian influences in her work and answers popular questions, like “are the insects real,” and “is that their natural color?” The answer is “yes” and everyone leans in to take a closer look. Stepping back, you’ll see find an appreciation for the cathedral like experience, something bigger than yourself. The natural world intertwined with the constructed space, a glimpse of the Super Natural.
Jennifer Angus’ exhibition runs through October 14.
Mad Art Gallery, 325 Westlake Ave N, #101
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, with extended hours on Thursday until 7pm