By Unicia R. Buster
Acrylic painting on stretched canvas; March 2021
36”w x 36”h
My son and I found a lime green flying insect one evening by a Red Box at our local Walgreens. It was attracted by the man-made light on the side of the building, trying to find its way but appeared to be dying. We'd never seen one before and decided to take it home for a few - to at least save it from its predicament. We cared for it very gently knowing it was fragile. After a little research, we discovered it was an Actias Luna or Luna Moth so named because of its moon-like spots. Not only were we fascinated by its luminescent wings, but also its wing span which was as wide as my 7 inch hand. This was new to us and so peaked our curiosity about moths. We released it in our garden and continued reading about it.
Moths do not have the same reputation as butterflies for being beautiful and fascinating. Most are even seen as pests. However, moths can be just as fascinating if not more so. We learned that this giant silk moth, as do all of them, emerges from the pupae state with no digestive system or mouth parts because it does not feed as a winged adult. They live only 7-10 days with the sole purpose of mating and, for the females, laying eggs. The wings of other giant silk moths are just as colorful, and they grow even larger. The Lepidoptera family, which includes butterflies and the giant silk moths, contains some of the largest moths in the world. The largest of them include the Atlas, Hercules and White Witch.
In my painting, I exist as a human-animal hybrid with an Atlas Moth. Around me are a Luna Moth and a White Ermine Moth. We are resting in the trees overlooking a river. There are several reasons I chose to be an animorph. Butterflies and moths are known for going through metamorphosis. We view this change symbolically and metaphorically as going through struggle and coming out transformed into something beautiful. As I look at myself and the things I value in my life along with all that I have been through, I hope that I come to the end of my journey knowing that I have transformed to become one with nature and hoping that she was apart of me all along.
Fragility means the quality of being delicate, vulnerable, or easily broken. Insects like these moths are quite fragile and rely on different things in their environment to survive like the moonlight, camouflaging, or resembling a snake head. But this piece also speaks to the fragility of the habitat they live in which is constantly being reduced by human population. We know scientifically that we are animals. But what if we saw ourselves as them from their perspectives? Would it make us empathetic?
Only recently are we slowly accepting our major contributions to climate change, habitat destruction and species extinction. Even the slightest things we do have significant impacts to plant and animal life. Entire ecosystems become fragile to the might of the human mind. We forget that human life is but a spec in time of Earth's existence. And what is 7 days compared to 70 years or 700 years or even 7 million years? For a giant silk moth, 7 days is a lifetime. We must learn to respect that life as the Earth, who has outlived us all, respects our life. We are all fragile.