One of my ongoing projects – 1, 13, 17 Years – centers on fascinating temporal insects known as cicadas, which inhabit specific isolated areas throughout the Northeast. Buried underground for the majority of their lives, cicadas emerge for only a brief few weeks at the very end of their life cycles. A special species of cicada, known as the magicicada, waits underground an incredible 17 years, emerges in a swarm of billions, and dies a mere month after emerging.
Magicicadas are one of the most fascinating insects on the planet, and perhaps the most misunderstood. Often being mistaken for locusts, magicicadas are treated by the unknowing public as pests. In reality cicadas are completely harmless to humans; they have no stingers nor mouths to bite with, and they have hugely beneficial impacts on surrounding fauna. Bird, squirrel, mole, and fox populations thrive during the years after a cicada swarm.
So much can happen in the 17 years between emergences. Forests can be leveled, factories built, generations born. Roads, sidewalks, and other features of civil infrastructure are impenetrable to emerging cicadas. Fluctuating temperatures are also throwing them off of their vital 17 year cycle. Each generation of cicada is smaller than the last. Of the 17 known “broods” of magicicadas, Brood XI and Brood XXI are already extinct. If human expansionism, pesticide usage, and climate change continue to go unchecked, one year there will be no emergences to witness, and no more cicada songs to hear.
In an attempt to document the saga of these insects, every summer I hike in wooded areas around New York and collect hundreds of exoskeletons shed by the emerging cicadas. I paint each cicada skin a lustrous gold, emphasizing their increasing rarity, and use them for site-specific installations throughout New York City. The resulting installations pay homage to the fragility of nature and the life-to-death journey of these amazing creatures.
PURCHASE INFO: Every cicada installation comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and an Installation Manual (though I’m always happy to install personally within the NYC area!). To purchase your own installation, visit my ArtSpace page : https://www.artspace.com/laura-murray. Inquiries can be sent to LMurray89(at)gmail(dot)com.