Every facet of human culture is in some way affected by our abundant, diverse insect neighbors. Our relationship with insects has been on display throughout the history of art, sometimes explicitly but frequently in inconspicuous ways. This is because artists can depict insects overtly, but they can also allude to insects conceptually or use insect products in a purely utilitarian manner. Insects themselves can serve as art media, and artists have explored or exploited insects for their products (silk, wax, honey, propolis, carmine, shellac, nest material), body parts (e.g., wings), and whole bodies (dead, alive, individually, or as collectives). This review surveys insects and their products used as media in the visual arts and considers the untapped potential for artistic exploration of media derived from insects. The history, value, and ethics of insect media art are relevant topics at a time when the natural world is at unprecedented risk.


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