The twinkle in Joan Danziger’s eye follows the beetle crawling on the wall of her Forest Hills studio – its glittering, glass encrusted shell blinks back, joining its companions of all shapes and sizes, in flight and at rest, in soft tonal grays or bedecked with glass pieces in glorious jewel and earth colors. Danziger’s deft handling, clever magnification and anatomically correct wings, legs, arms, horns and shells propel this seemingly humble insect into the realm of 21st century fashion.
Danziger’s upcoming exhibition, “Inside the Underworld: Beetle Magic” opening November 3 at AU’s Katzen Arts Center, offers the viewer a special glimpse into the artist’s intricate imagination through its newest animal character incarnation. In the hands of this virtuoso sculptor, the simple beetle evolves into a compelling and refreshing visual presentation that is dazzling to behold.
“Did she first imagine them during long walks in the woods of Forest Hills?” I wondered, so I asked, “Why beetles?”
Joan’s response: “My sculptures use animal imagery as metaphorical or psychological subjects, [giving them] a life of their own and creating a magical world. Beetles, especially the scarab, have inspired creative myths in many cultures because of their rebirth, immortality and their ability to survive. This site-specific installation of beetle sculptures combines my interest in mythology and metamorphosis and incorporates many aspects of their complex life cycle while also exploring their phantasmagorical diversity of shapes, colors and sizes.”
Okay, maybe beetles are not so simple after all…
The approximately 72 beetle sculptures in the exhibition range in size from one foot – to six. Danziger begins the creative process by forming an understructure through a wire armature technique. All are mixed media and incorporate a variety of materials that can include metal, resin, celluclay, glass and acrylic paint depending upon the desired result. Joan noted that “glass is a new medium for me and I feel like I am painting with glass.”
And yes, these beetles are just creepy and crawly enough that they beg to be taken home and loved.
Joan Danziger’s “Inside the Underworld: Beetle Magic” is showing at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, November 3–December 16th. For more information about the artist, visit www.joandanziger.com.