Art Review of the David Rogers' Exhibit “Big Bugs”
Showing at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
By Rachel S.Thurston
Think BIG. Think BUG. Think Tim Burton meets E.O. Wilson with a bandsaw and a truckload of wood. Volkswagen-sized ants and seven more of their insect cousins—handmade from tree limbs, logs, and metal–are now staking a space of their own in the Botani Garden as part of a travling sculpture exhibit touring the country.
Poised in the meadow, three giant ants with amber-colored eyes are reminiscent of the 1950s sci-fi thriller Them about a giant army of attack arthropods…they appear to be marching defiantly down from the mountains to seize the town and make it their own. It feels like they’re not out of size but, rather we are, that they’re not big, but we’ve been miniaturized.
The former boat and furniture maker David Rogers has applied his woodworking skills to create a whole fleet of invertebrates—by bending willow branches, carving giant logs of black locust, red cedar, and blak walnut, and forming under-body armatures of metal—that honors the diminutive creatures on a dinosaur-size sale.
Out of a hundred botani gardens that Rogers has seen, he believes that the natural style of landscaping at the Botani Garden suits his bugs the best. And it’s diffiult to argue with him. A prehistori-sized damselfly sits poised on the pond’s skin among the lily pads, its wings, though several feet long and made from willow branches, appear glass-like and delicate. Lurking among a primordial stand of giant redwoods, somewhere between light and shadow, stretches a 15-foot wide spider web and its maker, an arachnid. The monstrouh polyped sits poised for attack like the spider in Charlotte’s Web on steroids. Around the corner, a 17-foot wide dragonfly bathes in the sun beneath a waterfall, asting a shadow of itself on the water.
If the success of an artist lies in the ability to transcend his materials and achieve a deep emotional effet on the viewer, then Rogers triumphs with flying colors. The bugs don’t just excite the intellect, they implore the most primal of emotions.
A giant assassin bug sits quietly in the overgrown vegetation, its mandible tucked up beneath its jaw. I imagine its straw-like proboscis extending out and piercing the skull of its prey, slowly suking its brains out like soup.
Ahh, another day in the garden.
May 6th is the Big Bugs opening day with music, family activities, and lunch on the lawn.