Fla. Museum hosts “Butterflies and Moths in Contemporary Zuni Art ” exhibit
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors to the Florida Museum of Natural History can discover how butterflies have influenced Zuni Indian art in a new exhibit,“Butterflies and Moths in Contemporary Zuni Art .” The exhibit is on display through 2008.
This temporary exhibit highlights the role of butterflies in the belief system and art of contemporary Zuni people, Native Americans who live in the high desert of the American Southwest. Many Zuni traditional arts feature butterflies and moths, and this tradition continues today in their fine arts, crafts and tourist art forms.
“From T-shirts to jewelry, butterflies have found their way into a broad array of Zuni folk art and fine art – sometimes whimsical, other times beautiful,” said Darcie MacMahon, director of exhibits for the Florida Museum. “These works echo the importance of butterflies and moths in many cultural traditions, and also make clear the lively nature of Zuni art today.”
For the Zuni, butterflies and moths represent fertility because they are important plant pollinators and because they usually appear along with the desert’s life-giving rains. Butterflies and moths also represent beauty, rebirth and transformation, sometimes associated with the ability to know or change the mind. This derives from their amazing metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon or chrysalis to adult moth or butterfly.
The 85 pieces in this exhibit are from the collection of Gary Noel Ross, a lepidopterist and ethnobiologist with a lifelong interest in indigenous cultures. Ross has been chronicling the role of the butterfly and the butterfly motif in the belief systems and arts of indigenous Native American cultures.
“In the late 1990s, I became aware of the prominence of the butterfly symbol in Zuni culture of northern New Mexico,” Ross says. “In 2006, I was able to visit Zuni Pueblo for nearly a month. I quickly became a student of Edward Lewis, an extraordinary painter and religious leader. Edward introduced me to many other artists who were surprised to finally meet a butterfly scientist. An instant bond developed. I think that the Zunis portray the butterfly in their art more than any other living American culture, and I am gratified that Zuni art and crafts are now becoming more and more popular in the ‘outside’ world.”
- Marcel Raphael
- Paul Ramey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-2054