Winging it with community art project
Penn State Lehigh Valley unveiled its final installation of “Spotted LanternFly Zones of Syncopation (SFZ)” Dec. 3. The tabletop displays of six mandalas stretched between the front and rear entrances of Center Hall for public viewing, along with a video explaining the art and science behind the project utilizing the wings of the non-native insect. Originally scheduled for Dec. 2, inclement weather delayed the reception.
The completed installation will be on display through December 2020 at Center Hall, Penn State Lehigh Valley in the campus reception area.
Under the direction of visiting artist Elsabé Dixon, the “Community Public Art Project” was launched Aug. 24 with a free morning workshop at PSU’s Lehigh Valley campus, followed by workshops and events throughout the fall hosted there and at the Baum School of Art, Allentown ArtsFest, and Cave Brewing Company.
Dixon, a Virginia-based multidiscipline artist with a background in working with insects, had first considered using bees for the project.
After being informed about the lycorma delicatula infestation in Pennsylvania, Dixon concluded that the colorful, non-native pest, commonly known as the spotted lanternfly, should be the theme for the installation.
Penn State Lehigh Valley Gallery Director and Arts Coordinator Ann Lalik and Liz Flaherty, associate teaching professor of art history at Penn State Lehigh Valley, co-chaired the project. They were assisted by Penn State Lehigh Valley student Elise Schaffer.
Area arts and other organizations participated by catching spotted lanternflies, extracting the wings, and pinning them to individual foam board wedges. These were then assembled together into the circular mandalas of various sizes for the final installation. Each mandala formed the iris of a large eye.
Lalik explained Dixon used the naturally-occurring Fibonacci code to design the artwork. “We have two 1-foot circles, a 2-foot circle, a 3-foot circle, a 5-foot circle and an 8-foot circle, which is based on the Fibonacci code,” she said, adding, “Each circle has rings of wings on them.” Lalik estimated a total of 50,000 wings were used for the art installation.
Since its discovery in Berks County in 2014, the spotted lanternfly has been a threat to Pennsylvania agriculture.
“‘Syncopation’ is basically a musical term for an interruption,” explained Dixon of including ‘Zones of Syncopation’ in the project title during the August workshop.
“The lanternfly interrupted the agricultural ecosystem that we have,” she said, “What we are trying to do is see if we can reflect that syncopation back on it. We are trying to interrupt the interrupter.”
Mixing science with the arts are Associate Teaching Biology Professor Dr. Karen Kackley and Research Technologist Pamela Borowski, a biologist and chemist. Both work at the PSU Lehigh Valley campus. While researching spotted lanternflies for around three years, Kackley learned, “They are a hopping insect that have wings that help transport them.”
Lindsey Landfried, an art instructor and Tamryn McDermott from Campus Arts Initiative from PSU University Park, assisted with scoring grant funding.
The project was also supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
For more information, visit: campusarts.psu.edu/projects/lehigh-valley