Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches

Dec 17, 2008

American humorist-entertainer Will Rogers said  "I never met a man I didn't like."

I wonder if he would have said the same thing about insects.

Oh, sure, he probably liked--and appreciated--the butterflies, the honey bees and the ladybugs.

But cockroaches? I bet not.

Cockroaches just don't give you that fuzzy-wuzzy-lovey-dovey feeling--unless you're another cockroach.

Enter Catherine Chalmers, a New York-based multi-media artist who centers much of her work on cockroaches, their place on the planet, and people's reaction to them.

Chalmers, who explores the lives of cockroaches and other creatures that  the general public disdains, will speak on “Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches” from 6:30 to 8 p.m.,  Wednesday, Jan. 7 at the Wyatt Pavilion, University of California, Davis.

Her presentation is the second in a series of four lectures on “The Consilience of Art and Science,” a centennial colloquium sponsored by the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion experimental learning program. The lectures are free and open to the public. 

“Catherine Chalmers investigates the natural world, from food chains to insect sex, revealing new points of view about our place in the ecosystem,” said Art/Science Fusion co-director Diane Ullman, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and professor of entomology.

Chalmers specializes in photography, sculpture, drawing and video, preferring to let the subject matter dictate the particular media. She displays her art-science work throughout the country. The Boise (Idaho) Art Museum showcased her most recent show, “The American Cockroach.” She’s been featured in the New York Times, Kansas City Star,  The Idaho Statesman and others.

Chalmers possesses this incredible talent of combining humor with biology to make people think. She paints cockroaches to resemble other insects, camouflages them in garden settings, and even “executes” them, strapping one to an “electric chair” or “burning” another at the stake. You can see her videos on her Web site.

Chalmers  is quick to point out, however, that no animals are harmed in the making of her art. (Whew! For a minute there i thought the twitching cockroach was actually burning at the stake.)

Chalmers lives with her artist-husband in Rensselaerville, N.Y., where she buys, rears and poses insects for her art work. A native of San Mateo, she received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Stanford University, and a master’s degree in painting from the Royal College of Art, London.

She said "American Cockroach" grew out of an earlier piece, "Food Chain," which shows animals mating, eating one another, or in the case of the praying mantis, both. (An insect's gotta do what an insect's gotta do.)

I told Catherine Chalmers she should expect a standing-room only crowd.

 "Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches."

The title alone should draw folks in.

Maybe a few cockroaches, too.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

THE ARTIST--Noted artist Catherine Chalmers will speak on

Catherine Chalmers

THE COCKROACH--The cockroach, whether rain-drenched or not, is not one of the public's favorite insects. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Cockroach