Iridescently beautiful yet devastingly destructive, the emerald ash borer isn’t welcome in Chicago. As art? That’s another story. Janet Austin’s glass-mosaic beetle wanders atop a metal ash leaf’s maze-like veins, which represent the insect’s journey to the U.S. aboard transoceanic cargo ships and its larvae’s trailings within ash tree bark. The question posed: are humans or the bug to blame for our arboreal epidemic?
“The journey of ‘Mr. Big’ is a story of nature transported and in motion. The work allows visitors to confront this beautiful insect and ponder the role humans played in turning it into a dreaded creature. When human intervention causes an imbalance, is it our duty to right this wrong? Each step we take in controlling the balance of nature deserves consideration. It’s a complex web of beauty and destructive power.”
Janet Austin works in sculptural media including glass, mosaics, concrete, bronze and steel. She has received public art commissions throughout the United States. Her art explores relationships and connections between humans and nature. Her studio work is focused on natural forms—plants, larvae, insects—with the intention of giving artistic representation to underrepresented members of the natural order.