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More Than Monarchs: The Arts

Dec 28, 2020


  • More than Monarchs

Why Monarchs? While monarchs are intrinsically important, conserving monarchs matters for more than just their own protection. We’re exploring the ways that monarch habitat and conservation helps people, other wildlife and the environment in this ‘More than Monarchs’ series! Join us to learn more.

Searching online the words “monarch butterfly art” provides more than 600,000 sites to explore. Add in other arts such as fashion, music, and jewelry, and there are more than a million websites. Why all the flutter? 

The monarch butterfly is one of those iconic species that people know and love throughout the United States. Looking closely at a monarch butterfly, you will see a complex composition of patterns and colors. The rich orange coloring of monarch wings and dramatic black and white spotting distinguish the species. Their physical appearance and transformative life cycle may be why people identify with monarchs.

Art by Jane Kim, Ink Dwell Studio; courtesy of Ink Dwell.

This charismatic and captivating butterfly inspires many artists. Jane Kim, a painter, science illustrator and the founder of the Ink Dwell studio, creates large-scale murals with the purpose of promoting advocacy of the natural world. Her Migrating Mural project is part of an ongoing effort to increase awareness of wildlife migration corridors with a current focus on monarch butterflies. This effort goes beyond public art. Ink Dwell and conservation partners across the country create art to educate viewers about monarch migration and other pollinators.

Couture fashion designer Luly Yang strives to create experiences that inspire us to live better. Her journey started in 1999 with the sensational monarch paper dress as part of a benefit for Art with Heart. The monarch dress reawakened her love for fashion, changing her career from graphic to fashion designer. Yang’s evolution created a kaleidoscope of clothing collections based on butterflies including Metamorphosis, A Monarch’s Tale, and The Butterfly Effect.

Actress Zendaya Coleman was crowned one of the best dressed women in 2018 thanks to stylist Law Roch. Roch dressed Coleman like a monarch butterfly for the Sydney premiere of the film Greatest Showman. Wearing the Moschino dress signified an emergence after transformation, or what entomologists call an eclose, of Coleman from singer to actor and celebrated her as an adult.

Composers Frédéric Chopin and Mortiz Rosenthal wrote pieces based on butterflies. While Chopin never gave his Etude for piano No. 21 in G flat major, Opus 25 No.9 a title, it received the title of Butterfly due to the animation involved in performing the piece. A pianist’s hands bounce and dart along the keys like a butterfly fluttering from flower to flower. Rosenthal's modern piece Papillons, which is the French word for butterfly, was inspired by a suite of piano pieces written in 1831 by Robert Schumann with the same title to represent a masked ball.  The butterfly title may influence a participants costume and mask. These items have many uses including hiding one's identity, and using different color to express one's freedom of speech and voice one's emotions and opinions without judgement. Butterflies continue to be a common costume and mask theme for masquerades.

The arts is just one example of how the work we do for monarchs can make a difference in many ways. What are the co-benefits of monarch conservation that matter most to you? Keep following our “More than Monarchs” series to hear more stories of what monarchs can do for us, our communities and our world.

Article written by Mara Koenig (Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) for the Monarch Joint Venture Communications Working Group and NAPPC Monarch Taskforce’s More than Monarchs Series. The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header and article photos courtesy of Ink Dwell; artwork by Jane Kim, Ink Dwell Studio.