Moderator: Amy Berkov
Panelists: Christine Johnson, Dave Lohman, Anna Dushanko Dobek, Mary Ting
Watching insects—in lowland rain forests, high altitude deserts, or our own city parks and gardens—brings us humans as close as most of us will ever get to visiting another planet. The adaptations that foster insects’ astounding success, in terms of diversity and biomass, are often visually intriguing and, in many cases, a complete mystery to even dedicated observers. This panel in collaboration with the Insecta exhibition brings together artists and entomologists to discuss the whats: what first drew their attention to their insect subjects, what they most enjoy about working with insects, and what they hope to achieve with their projects.
Amy Berkov is a tropical ecologist who, inspired by climbing a huge tropical tree, made a mid-life career change from art to science. She is a faculty member at the City College of New York, and affiliated with the New York Botanical Garden and the American Museum of Natural History. She discovered her study system while sketching a handful of the world’s 400,000 beetles through a microscope.
Christine Johnson is a behavioral ecologist whose research focuses primarily on relationships between “slave-maker” ants and their ant hosts. Her first passion was ballet, but her degree in psychology led to a fascination with insect behavior. She is the Curatorial Associate for the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, which boasts a worldwide collection that dates back to the late 1800s, of about 25 million insect and invertebrate specimens.
Dave Lohman grew up exploring the caves, creeks, and forests near the farm where he grew up in Illinois, and subsequently earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in biology. His research on butterflies and other insects has taken him to Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam for fieldwork. He is currently coordinating a project to reconstruct the family tree of all butterflies.
Anna Dushanko Dobek has a Masters Degree from Pratt Institute. She is an installation artist and lecturer whose multi-disciplinary works focus on issues of social justice and the environment with a lifelong interest in entomology. She is the recipient of fellowships from the New Jersey Council for the Arts, Earthwatch, Puffin and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundations. Her work is in the collections of the Montclair Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Art and Design, National Museum of American Art, Noyes Museum, Library of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Mary Ting’s artwork reflects on memory, loss, and nature. She grew up in a wonder cabinet household, climbing the shelves of pickled jars, and listening to stories of her grandma’s near death rescue by a poisonous centipede. Mary is a recipient of 2016 residencies at Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans and LMCC In Process. Her ongoing project Compassion focuses on wildlife trafficking and the Chinese consumer. She teaches at John Jay College in the art department and the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Program. Mary is also an avid gardener and writer.