Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

Its Mysterious Life: An Appreciation of Beetles will be on display at Mann Library from Nov. 2 to Jan. 31, 2019.

November 8, 2018

Local Artist Turns Entomology Into Art in ‘Beetle-mania’ Exhibit

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According to local Ithaca artist Carla Demello, beetles are not just annoying insects we brush off our clothes — they’re “lovely and fascinating” creatures that are sometimes misunderstood.

Mann Library is displaying Demello’s exhibit, entitled “Its Mysterious Life: An Appreciation of Beetles,” from Nov. 2 to Jan. 31, 2019 in its Top Shelf Gallery. The exhibit, which is made up of detailed, handmade paper sculptures of various types of beetles, is part of the library’s slew of biology-themed exhibits.

Demello, who works as a publications coordinator and graphic designer at Olin Library, has always been fascinated by beetles, which inspired her to start this project.

Her exhibit showcases colorful beetles made out of paper. Under each beetle is its Latin name, as well as a literary quote. Demello told The Sun that she included quotes from naturalists in her work to “inspire one to appreciate and explore both our inner and outer worlds.”

Since Mann Library is home to the University’s entomology collection, Demello thought it would be the perfect place to display her exhibit. She reached out to Jenny Leijonhufvud from Mann Library, who helped her organize the exhibit and have it displayed in the library.

“Here at Mann we have a mission to bring art, science and community together,” Leijonhufvud told The Sun, explaining the choice to exhibit Demello’s work.

Demello also used the library collection at Mann to do research for the exhibit, stating that the internet did not have nearly enough information.

“It’s wonderful when our collection gets used … for a local artist to use the fantastic collection that’s here in Mann Library for entomology is something that makes us happy,” Leijonhufvud said.

Demello also modelled her sculptures after the beetle exhibit in Comstock Hall.

One challenge Demello faced in the process, she said, was trying to capture the essence of the beetles using paper. She had to test out multiple types of paper, searching for ones that were stiff yet pliable. The beetle shells also provided her the opportunity for creative interpretation and incorporating various media types, such as watercolor, metallics and nail polish.

The exhibit has already received a positive reaction from students and the library staff and many people in the library have been pausing to look at it, according to Demello and Leijonhufvud.

Demello said several students have reached out to her with positive reactions, saying that she was “very moved” by this response.

Demello’s depiction of insects does not stop here. She hopes to expand to other insects, such as butterflies, and even botanicals, which, she said is “a whole different set of challenges and opportunities.”