Abbey Nova lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband and toddler son. She has a master’s degree in the History of Decorative Arts and Design and has worked for museums all over the city, in addition to publishing on topics ranging from nineteenth-century silversmiths to the artists of the Studio Craft Movement. Her blog, designscouting, explores the role design plays in our daily lives.
The aisles of my local drugstore tell a story of just how intertwined human existence is with the insect world, and it’s not a pretty one. Beyond the rows of sunscreens and sunburn products are the insect repellent and after-bite products. A few aisles down is the cockroach section, with cans of ant insecticide and some wasp killer, too. As I walk towards the pharmacist I pass the lice section, where the octagonal brand logos look like stop signs.
The aggravation of a mosquito bite, the late night scuttle of a roach — chances are you’ve experienced one or the other. But insects are not just a source of irritation. If you’ve ever gone flyfishing while a good caddisfly hatch is on, you’ll know what I mean.
Insects also have a long history in art, where they often take on spiritual meaning and symbolism. Early rock paintings of spiders in Spain make a connection to the moon and fertility.
Throughout ancient art found in Egypt, Greece, and Australia, winged insects like the fly, grasshopper, butterfly represent the human soul. The humble bee, industrious and communal, connotes purity, intelligence and spirituality.
The often moralizing paintings from 16th and 17th century Dutch still-life tradition contain layers of meaning that include insects. Here, the butterfly is seen as a symbol of redemption and resurrection, while the fly and dragonfly are symbols of the devil and spiritual temptation.
As you look through the paintings, drawings, photographs and embroideries of insects on Etsy, you’ll find the the insect kingdom in its diverse glory.
Are you a fan of bugs in art?