Posts Tagged: Maggot Art
Maggot Art. Yes, you read that right. Maggot Art.
It's a traditional and popular part of the Department of Entomology and Nematology's many activities at Picnic Day. This year the UC Davis Picnic Day is Saturday, April 12, and the Briggs Hall events take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Maggot Art is especially for children, but anyone can participate. You grab a special pair of forceps, pick up a maggot, dip it into non-toxic, water-based paint and let it crawl around on white paper. Voila! Maggot Art. Suitable for framing!
Rebecca O'Flaherty, former entomology doctoral candidate at UC Davis, coined and trademarked the term in 2001 while a student at the University of Hawaii. She was organizing a community outreach program and seeking ways to teach youngsters about insects. Not to hate them. Not to fear them. To respect them and learn about them.
Maggot Art was the way. Her way. It worked.
"I love my work and being able to share my love with so many people has truly been a joy," she told us in an interview back in 2007. "I tend to target young elementary students, second and third graders, because I find that at that age, most children are enthusiastic, uninhibited and extremely open to new ideas. They haven't developed aversions to insects, and we're able to instill in them an appreciation for and interest in all organisms, no matter how disgusting those organisms may be perceived to be."
Some adults find maggots revolting, she acknowledged. "A few parents have pulled their children away with a 'Eeew!' and 'Don't touch that!'"
Since 2001, O'Flaherty has taught thousands of students, ranging from kindergarteners to college students to law enforcement professionals. She even showcased her own Maggot Art at a 2007 art show in the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento. Some art critics compared her work to that of American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.
While at UC Davis, O'Flaherty studied with major professor/forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey. Although she no longer participates in Picnic Day's Maggot Art, her art continues.
UC Davis entomology undergraduate and graduate students now guide little hands in creating art that is like no other.
Some youngsters are concerned about the welfare of the maggots (no maggots are harmed in the making of the paintings) and a few ask to take the maggots home.
Just the art work goes home, thank you. No maggots, please.
A maggot dipped in water-based, non-toxic paint crawls on paper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's something about maggots that non-forensic entomologists don't like.
"Those are the larvae of a fly," a mother told her inquiring daughter last Saturday at the Maggot Art table at Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. The occasion: the 97th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
Maggot Art? It's been part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's featured Picnic-Day attractions since 2003.
It started with graduate student Rebecca O'Flaherty, who coined the name, "Maggot Art," and established it as an educational curriculum. She's taught youths and adults alike to dip a maggot in non-toxic, water-based paint and let it crawl (or guide its movements) on white paper. Voila! Maggot Art!
“The beauty of the Maggot Art program,” O'Flaherty told us a few years ago, “is its ability to give hands-on, non-threatening experience with an insect that most people fear or loathe.”
So last Saturday, scores of children crowded around the table awaiting their turns. Once finished, they literally danced away with their masterpieces.
Can't you just see the result? A favorite aunt or uncle comes to visit and there's a colorful "painting" on the refrigerator.
That's definitely a conversation piece.
Anyway, one of the Maggot Art artists at UC Davis Picnic Day was entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Ullman and colleague Donna Billick co-founded and co-direct the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program and on occasion invited O'Flaherty into their classrooms to teach Maggot Art.
Last Saturday, when Ullman volunteered to staff the Maggot Art table, she found a little time to create her own insect art--again.
"It's just like old times," she said.
This work, Maggot Art, is by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist/artist Diane Ullman (left) at work with Maggot Art. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you want to create art that's bound to be a conversation piece, you need to head over to Briggs Hall at the
April 18 is the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide event that showcases, the organizers say, "the richness and diversity of campus life."
Make that "the richness and diversity of insects," too.
Briggs Hall, home of the Department of Entomology since 1972, is where bugs rule.
Forensic entomologist Rebecca O’Flaherty, a doctoral candidate in entomology, will be there with her free “Maggot Art” event.
She’ll provide the maggots, non-toxic paint, and paper. Your job is to pick up a maggot with specially designed larval forceps, dip it in paint (your choice of colors), place it on white paper, and let the maggot do its thing--which is to crawl across the paper. Voila! Maggot Art.
It’s one-of-a-kind art suitable for framing or posting on the refrigerator. Your Aunt Gertrude will be proud.
Maggot Art is actually the educational teaching curriculum that O'Flaherty coined and trademarked in 2001 while she was studying entomology at the
Since 2001, she’s taught thousands of students the “art of Maggot Art” in the classroom, while also providing information about blow flies. She's a skilled Maggot Art artist herself. In 2007, she coordinated a Maggot Art Show at the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento, with colleagues and fellow artists Brandi Schmitt and Charlotte Wacker.
Maggot Art has been a tradition at Picnic Day since 2003. Kids usually love it, but that's not always true for adults. The "yecch" factor sometimes kicks in, she admits.
O'Flaherty's major professor, forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey, who chairs the Department of Entomology's Picnic Day celebration, estimates that the "bug events" at Briggs draw 3,000 people.
Maggot Art, Termite Trails, Cockroach Races and Honey Tasting are just a few of the events that will be offered at Briggs Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bugs rule. They do, indeed.
Combining Art and Science