My moth quilts, machine sewn and hand stitched, are story quilts telling of relationships between plants and moths. Life cycles, pieced, patched, and sutured with large cross stitches and heavy string to symbolize interconnections, the ensembles tell cautionary tales. Even though special plant-pollinator and host-plant relationships have been forged over long periods of time, the process of co-evolution is ongoing. Fragmented forests, pesticides, urban sprawl and the changing environment mean unpredictable food sources and habitat for the creatures of the Earth. Life is fragile. Natural systems and the ties that bind can unravel in short periods of time. By portraying these relationships with my art and by joining the efforts of other artists who interpret ecological tales, I have hope we will build interest in others to be good stewards of the natural world.
Ruffner Mountain hosted a Night Festival to celebrate nocturnal wildlife and to coincide with National Moth Week. It was a magical night of nocturnal-themed art, food and drink, live music, and science. Kicking the night off, a word from the executive director and a brief panel discussion put attendees at ease. A comfortable tone between speakers and audience conveyed that we’re all in this together — scientists, enthusiasts, artists — we all care about the creatures of the night, the mountain, and our own backyard biodiversity. There were guided hikes in the dark, moth stations (sheets hung by cords with UV lights to attract the moths for closer looks), and animal lanterns hung in the habitat garden and throughout the building. The nature center is a modern building, and it is elevated and juts out into the woods like a big treehouse. Patrons moved freely inside and out to see the art, enjoy the music, and nibble on beautiful food. I loved being a part of the enchanted evening.
For the moth quilts, I wanted the moths to stand out against the backgrounds of neutral tones. I chose varying shades of white, beige, and taupe for the host plants and caterpillars, and gold and brown threads for zigzag and straight-stitched accents and outlines.
Made from a found rolling rack, star string lights, recycled fabrics, cotton string and welt, and a piece of recycled foam, the Starry Night light-box depicts the relationship of the Hadena moth and Starry Campion. Hadena moths pollinate Starry Campion as they suck nectar from the white flowers with fringed petals. The plant (Silene stellata) is also the moth’s larval host plant, and caterpillars will feed on the fruits and seeds.
Native Coral Honeysuckle is a larval host plant for the Snowberry Clearwing. This hummingbird moth sips nectar from a vast array of flowers during the day. Typical of sphinx moths, the caterpillars have spiked tail horns. Our native honeysuckle is easy to grow on trellises or a fence. It grows well in the shade, but if it is planted in a sunny spot, it will stay green and bloom all year long.
Lacecap Hydrangea is a larval host plant for the Hydrangea Sphinx Moth. The caterpillar will turn downward as it is ready to pupate. I’ve always loved Hydrangea aborescens, with their arrays of lacy, dainty, fertile flowers and the sporadic pop of the bigger non-fertile flowers for the purpose of luring insects. I don’t want the big-bloomer hydrangeas, give me a lace-top, cinnamon bark, and Hydrangea Sphinxs!