The work is derived from photographs of the tracks of wood boring and bark beetles. Perhaps you have seen these on dead trees in the woods. After I began photographing these patterns, I started to learn more about the insects that made them.
I found out that millions of acres across the US are affected by the damage caused by these beetles, though they are more common in the West. Reports indicate that the warming climate has increased the extent and severity of the infestation. Winters are not so cold, enabling more beetles to survive. Summers are longer, allowing the beetles to fly farther and expand their range. Higher altitudes are warmer, giving the beetles access to new tree species that don’t have natural defenses against them.
One of the world’s leading authorities on bark beetles is Diana Six, Professor at the University of Montana, Missoula. In addition to her many papers in peer-reviewed journals, she’s been featured in popular publications such as Mother Jones and National Geographic. Dr. Six has been kind enough to consult with me about this artwork and offer enthusiastic support of the project. One of the first things she told me – which you can notice yourself in the exhibit – was the difference between the paths of the wood boring beetles and the bark beetles. The wood boring beetles produce trails which seem to wander more or less randomly. The bark beetles have a central gallery where their eggs are laid, and when the larvae hatch, they burrow out, making paths that get larger as the larvae grow.
You can visit her Six Lab website: http://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/sixlab/
View her TED Talk about the beetles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSIEzq0fofk
See a National Geographic video about her and her work:
When we go into the woods, it’s poignant to see the dead trees where there was once beautiful forest. And yet, there is a certain fascination and beauty to the patterns engraved into the wood by the beetle larvae as they eat beneath the bark. My images present these patterns individually, as artifacts: beautiful signatures which, sadly, spell destruction.