Microsculpture: About the exhibit

image of microsculpture exhibit title with image ©Levon Biss


The Insect Photography of Levon Biss
from the collections of Oxford University Museum of Natural History

April 4 - 30, 2023
Verona Public Library

  • The intricate shapes, colors, and structures of insects are dizzying in their variety, but without the power of an optical microscope or camera lens, their astonishing complexity and beauty remains mostly hidden to the human eye. 
  • Microsculpture is a series of beautiful, high magnification portraits that capture the microscopic form of insects in striking large-format and high-resolution detail. 
  • The exhibition was created by photographer Levon Biss and showcases the insect collection of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
  • Microsculpture presents a new perspective on insects, enabling audiences to study and appreciate the hidden details of the insect world in a unique and engaging way.
  • Each image on display in Microsculpture took about four weeks to create and was created from over 8,000 separate images taken using microscope lenses. The photographs are printed in large-scale formats with insects that are millimeters long being presented at up to 9 feet tall.

The photographs of Levon Biss cast specimens from the Museum of Natural History’s entomology collection quite literally in a new light. Their scale and resolution not only reveal the unexpected and often breathtaking beauty of insects, but also make clear the many intricate evolutionary adaptations to their form -what entomologists call microsculpture. Shapes and colours come in abundant variety, but it takes the power of an optical microscope or camera lens to experience insects at their own scale: ridges, pits or engraved meshes combine with exquisite complexity. Levon Biss’ photographic process composites thousands of images, using multiple lighting setups, to create a final portrait which reveals this microsculpture. It is thought that these structures alter the properties of the insect’s surface indifferent ways, reflecting sunlight, shedding water, sensing food sources or trapping air. Also visible are minute hairs that are adapted for many purposes, such as gripping smooth surfaces, carrying pollen, or detecting movement. These hairs are sometimes modified into flattened scales -structures so small they appear like dust to the naked eye. In certain insects, such as butterflies and beetles, these scales scatter and reflect light to create some of the most vibrant and intense colours seen in nature.

from microsculpture.net

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Made possible by the Verona Public Library Endowment Fund.