Didomenico Studio

Parvana, 2011

Intrigued by the mechanics of the butterfly’s construction, as well as its rich symbolic heritage, Rebecca DiDomenico creates sculptural works that use butterfly wings as both the focus of her artistic investigations and as her medium. Concerned about the rapidly diminishing populations of some butterfly species, DiDomenico purchases the wings from butterfly farms where the insects are bred for commercial use.

Butterfly wings are composed of tiny, dust-covered scales that reflect light at various wavelengths. In various light conditions the scales produce brilliant flashes of color intended to beguile mates and confuse predators. To recreate this effect on a larger scale, DiDomenico isolates and protects individual wings within slices of mica, a translucent mineral itself composed of many layers. Encasing the wing in mica both protects the fragile wing and freezes it in time and space: the fugitive becomes fixed for contemplation. Sewing layers of brightly colored wings to fabric that is then shaped into sculptural form, DiDomenico expands the physical and psychic encounter with the butterfly—each wing becomes a “scale” within a larger composition.

DiDomenico’s work engages the multi-cultural mythic history of the butterfly in a variety of ways. Across cultures globally, the caterpillar’s dramatic emergence from the “tomb” of the cocoon as a butterfly had indelibly linked the mature insect with concepts of spiritual rebirth. Among many examples of this symbolism: Xiutecutli the Aztec and Maya god of cosmic fire—and thus transformation—is symbolized by a butterfly; in Christian traditions the butterfly represents Jesus’ rebirth; and the Nagas in Northeast India believe that the dead go through a series of transformations in the underworld to be reborn as butterflies.

DiDomenico’s recent monumental sculpture “Pellucid” comprised a geode-like cave, reminiscent of a cocoon, with an interior entirely covered in mica-encased butterfly wings and pieces of brightly colored trash—the butterfly waiting within the chrysalis. Created in a similar manner, “Flutter and Ossify” unfurls a torrent of brilliant, shimmering scales.

-Jessica Hunter Larsen, Curator at Colorado College I.D.E.A. art space