A meeting of art and science

A meeting of art and science

Art and entomology (the scientific study of insects) have gone hand in hand for centuries, Maria Sibylla Merian, for example, was an important early scientist and artist in the 17th century who helped make it possible for naturalists to study insects in minute detail.

While the need for entomologists to have artis- tic ability faded with the invention of high-powered microscopes and photography, there are still many scientists around whose artistic soul shines through their work.

Dr George Bornemissza, the man behind the introduction of the dung beetle to Australia, was one such scientist.

His scientific work took him to many of the hotter regions in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia, before his retirement from the CSIRO in the early 1970s saw him move to the cooler climes of Tasmania.

Upon arrival, he decided he wanted to share his love of beetles with the general population, by producing a dazzling display of insects presented in a way that would not only be scientifically accurate, but also pleasing to the eye.

He initially produced 60 display boxes in an array of styles, circular and fan-shaped, which were displayed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for a time, before being donated to the CSIRO Division of Entomology at Black Mountain in Canberra, where they still reside today.

George then began his Forest Beauties of the World collection, dealing and swapping with global collectors to ensure each zoogeographic region was well represented and amassing a huge collection of insects along the way.

In the early 1990s, he struck up a friendship with Geeveston high school teacher Mike Bouffard, and together they undertook many expeditions around the state collecting insects, mostly lucanids (stag beetles).

In 2014, George passed away, having completed in excess of 90 boxes and leaving his, still

substantial, residue insect collection to Mike.

During his lifetime, George had completed boxes for the Afrotropics, Neotropics and Oriental zoogeographic regions, but the Palaeartic, Nearctic and Austral-Pacific regions remained to be done.

Mike, wanting to honour their friendship, teamed up with George’s widow, Jocelyn, an accomplished artist in her own right, to see George’s work completed.

“I had the entomological knowledge and skill, while Jocelyn brought an artistic flair to the project,” says Mike.

“Together, we decided that, while keeping to George’s general plan, we wanted to stamp our own individuality on our creations.

“While George specialised in presenting the beetles in circles, fans and combinations of the two, Jocelyn and I established a number of free-flowing patterns that included coils, starbursts, multi-layered waves and one that showed beetles (mostly endemic) from Tasmania, in a map of the state, comprising beetles found in their appropriate locales.”

All up, an additional eight boxes were produced for the Austral-pacific zoogeographic region, now on semi-permanent display at TMAG.

The pair have now moved onto the next section of the general collection - the Palaeartic.

“Aware that the region brought to mind cold winters, we have produced five boxes with the theme of a snowflake in each one,” said Mike.

“Having finished the basic set-up for the Palaeartic, we are now in the planning stages for the final zoogeographic section - the Nearctic, which, due to time constraints and to the fact that we have limited material available, we are envisaging completing only three boxes.

“This should complete the collection, which George started, which is also our tribute to him.” Much of the material for this article was originally published in The Journal of the Entomological Society of New South Wales Inc, Volume 48,

published at www.entsocnsw.org.au