Find the Caterpillar
By Rachel Fleming and Caterpillar(s)

Started on: 05/23/14 16:51:32
Medium: Sculptural

My collaboration project to this point has gone something like this:

Wanted to make a project using the caterpillars to make interesting patterns on leaves, which I would direct.

Ordered caterpillars from online.

Found out that there were caterpillars on campus and cancelled my order.

Collected some caterpillars from a cork oak tree near the library, which turned out to not be lively or useful for my project.

Found monarch butterfly caterpillars with the help of a friend.

Observed the monarchs in a habitat I created and collected photos and videos. Made a short YouTube video.

Lost two of the caterpillars somehow and was left with one.

Kept my last one in a closed container and was shocked to find out that it had made its cocoon when I came home the next day.

The surprise evoked by the caterpillar was so pleasant that I was inspired to recreate the surprise for others. Although caterpillars are not easy to communicate and collaborate with on a personal level, the fact that this caterpillar had given me such a strong emotion was powerful in my eyes.

I then decided to make an artificial cocoon using gum and acrylic paint. I found out that the gum, although cheap, did NOT make a good modeling material, even after dried/frozen (the color and shininess of mint green gum reminded me of the cocoon, so that's why I first tried gum). I bought Das clay from the bookstore for a good price and it worked very nicely. I sculpted three tiny cocoons and am now waiting for them to dry. This takes 24 hours. I will soon paint them to match the color of the real cocoon and add golden sparkles in places that the actual cocoon has glimmers. I've also attached staples to the tips of the artificial cocoons and painted them black to mimic the attachment appendage on the real one.

I've tried mixing paints to get as close to the real color as possible while I was still using the gum. It's very difficult though since it's such a unique shade of green. Maybe I'll have better luck with it on the clay. I hope the grooves I made on them are still visible after they are painted. At the end of the process I will coat the cocoon(s) with clear nail polish to give them shine. I hope they will look convincing! So far, making my own cocoons with an organism as my model has been fun! I've noticed things about the cocoon that I didn't notice on first glance. I'll attach photos soon.

Also, I have several video clips I'd like to share. The videos will show the caterpillars munching on leaves and interacting with one another in interesting ways. They were quite comical, actually. I can upload my videos to Youtube and share the link. I've already put the videos together in a Windows Movie Maker file, but the song I wanted to play alongside it was "protected" on my computer. I could not convert it to a version that WMM would accept but will come back on this issue later. This song was perfect for it so I hope I can get it to work...or else I'll just have to purchase it again from iTunes.

Anyway, the cocoons are drying and I anticipate I'll only have 4 more days to observe the real cocoon. With any luck I'll be around when the butterfly emerges! Otherwise I might be in for another surprise!

The artificial cocoons, drying

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Project Updates
05/23/14 16:59:16 - The Exhibit

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the most important part! The reason I am making an artificial cocoon is so that I can put it into a small habitat, sort of like the one I have now only more aesthetically appealing. It'll be attached to a strong branch, which I will collect close to the exhibition date. When a viewer goes up to the exhibit they will see a (glass?) case with leaves inside and soil on the bottom. In front of the case will be instructions to look for a monarch caterpillar. I'll even include one of the photos I took of a caterpillar. When the viewer looks inside, they'll have the image of the caterpillar in their head and will not see what they are looking for (just like what happened to me). Instead, I'm hoping they will realize that there is a cocoon instead, which will be as surprising to them as it was to me. I really hope I see someone else have the same reaction I did.

Also, I could play my videos in the background on a screen with the music playing low. After the observer has found the cocoon, they can take a handout at the exhibit and read about my experience and the caterpillar's experience.

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05/25/14 12:46:15 - Painting the Cocoons

I've now painted the artificial cocoons to match the color of the real one. They are not quite the right shade yet. I think I'll have to wait until Tuesday to mix yellow and black into my paints since I left them at my apartment in Isla Vista (I came home after the night of the shootings so I could focus on my studies). I've also made a branch to hang one or more from in the exhibit if necessary. I' hoping though that they will be ok on a real branch.

The real cocoon has perhaps another two days until the butterfly emerges. I'm patiently waiting :)

The recently painted cocoons

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