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On Entomology, and Biophilia by Christopher Marley

Part of me always wanted to be an entomologist, except for the whole collecting bugs bit of it. Every time I think of pushing pins into a butterfly’s body, I just shrink back in horror.  Maybe that’s just urban myth or maybe it’s not even done that way anymore.  Regardless, that’s sort of why I admire insects from a distance. There’s something extraordinarily beautiful to me about a well-placed arrangement of insects that it becomes an art form.

Recently, I had the opportunity of visiting the City Museum in St. Louis which has a display of an “Entomologist’s Room” that I was fortunate enough to get to visit and take a few photos of, although it’s difficult to capture displays accurately through glass cases.

As in much of the permanent exhibits at the City Museum, I suspect that this is someone’s private collection which is being displayed and it’s interesting to note the various species and types of insects on display which extends into other animal types as well like sea shells, birds and even fossils and hives. There’s such a difference between looking at an illustrated plate of a species and seeing the actual animal preserved.

This is perhaps the second collection of publicly available insects that I’ve blogged about locally (see my blog post ‘In Search of the Blue Morpho’). Whenever I come across a display, I like to take a few moments and see what’s there. Sometimes they are trunk shows (i.e. the Missouri Botanical Garden) and you can score a framed butterfly or insect for your home for about $40.00. I’m still looking for a blue morpho if anyone has suggestions!

With ‘bugs on the brain’, I was surprised and delighted to stumble upon a new release at my local library, Biophilia by Christopher Marley.

Biophilia_JKT_1124.inddThis oversized collection by Marley was released in 2015 by Abrams (Abrams, NY) and is an exquisite foray into Marley’s lifelong pursuit (from his teenage years) in using insects as an art medium.

The cover is a gorgeous example of the kaleidoscopic visions contained within. I counted sixty bugs on the cover alone, the shape of which reminds me of a snowflake, and which Marley identifies as ‘Elegans Prism’, a collection of Calloplophora graafi, Malaysia; Glenea celestis, Indonesia; Coccinellidae sp., Indonesia; Anoplophora longehisuta, Malaysia; Pareronia tritaea, Indonesia; Geotrupes auratus, Japan; and Scutelleridae sp., Indonesia. The size of this composition piece was 24″x24 “.

There are also singular specimens from snakes and lizards, to the full plumage of a parrot or finch, geometic cube displays of rock formations, and some (beautiful to me) framed skeletons of fish and snakes. I admire seeing the simplicity of God’s design in the structure of a butterfly fish or a cobra.

Within the art pieces displayed in this collection some of my favorite pieces included…

From the “Insects” Collection:

  • Cerulean Butterflies (Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Irian, Sulawesi, France)
  • Sumptuosa Prism (Laos, Indonesia, Tanzania, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, France)
  • Damselfly Wash (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines)
  • Amazon Grasshopper (Ecuador)

From the “Sea Creatures” Collection:

  • Pastel Urchin Mosaic (Philippines)
  • Sea Horse Skeletons (Philippines)
  • Nautilus Pedestal (Philippines)

From the “Reptiles” Collection:

  • Bamboo Rat Snake (Thailand)
  • Green Tree Python (Australia)
  • Cobra NeoFossil (Malaysia)

From the “Birds” Collection:

  • Green-Winged Macaw (Venezuela)
  • Greater Blue-Eared Starling (Botswana)
  • Blue and Gold Macaw (Bolivia)

From the “Minerals” Collection:

  • Keichosaurus (China)
  • Blue Chalcedony (India)
  • Rough Rubies (Madagascar)

Marley provides notes in the rear of the book on each of the plates in the collection including their scientific names, where they were found, composition size, and occasionally a commentary on the piece itself which I found to be fascinating look at his artistic process.

While some of these pieces are in museums or private collections, I’ve no doubt that the cost for any of these featured (if available) are far beyond the means of this readership. So for those of us who cannot afford the originals, I humbly suggest you pick up a copy of this lovely collection (U.K. £30.00/U.S. $50.00/C$57.50), or one of the calendar releases which are now available for the 2015 year, and the upcoming 2016 year. You can learn more about Marley’s art and see other gorgeous examples of his work at his wholesale site,

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has two decades of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at

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