Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Top 10: Pheromone

Third in a series of reviews of my 10 favorite books read in 2010, presented in alphabetical order.

Pheromone by Christopher Marley

Phenomenal er, I mean Pheromone, is a stunning photographic collection of Christopher Marley’s insect artwork.

I first heard of Marley on a CBS Sunday Morning segment. He grew into adulthood hating insects (their legs, especially), but when the colors, shapes and textures of particularly remote species caught his artist’s eye, his dread turned to fascination. His specimens are sustainably collected from around the world, supporting local tribes and their efforts to resist deforestation (and with it the loss of habitat that results in species endangerment).

He preserves, mounts and frames the insects, sometimes arranging mixed species (like the “mosaic” on the book’s cover, a sort of insect version of a wildflower garden), but more often composing groups of a single species (evocative of massed tulips) or even a striking lone insect. The nubby and hairy textures are practically tactile, the colors are fabulous, and every image is lively -- the circularity of a mandala of longhorn beetles; the waves of color washing across a page of massed scarabs; the page-full of 95%-identical moths that highlights their individuating differences. The book's Endnotes include the title of each work of art; the insect specimen’s common name, scientific name, geographic location and actual size; and sometimes Marley’s personal comments, which made me re-visit the images with new insight.

You can browse Marley’s gallery here, but I've given more than a passing thought to pulling out some of the book’s pages to frame.

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