This photographic installation pays tribute to the Monarch butterfly migration across the North American continent.  After spending the spring and summer in what is now Canada and the United States, an estimated one hundred million Monarchs fly South to Mexico, where they hibernate in a semi-dormant state over the winter.  They wake up in March and April during the mating season, and fly north again to complete their migratory cycle.

Although most of the images for this installation were taken in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary El Rosario, in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, my intention was to develop the concept of trajectory as a route rather than a fixed geographical location.  Much like human beings, the Monarchs leave traces along their path.  Their presence is interrelated to other animals, which in turn will leave their own mark upon the space. For example, these insects feed on alkaloid plants commonly called cow’s tongue and swamp milkweed, both of which are poisonous to other animal species.  Their diet becomes their own protection, for if a bird eats the insect, the poison in the butterfly system will cause the bird’s heart rate to accelerate and the bird will die. Plants benefit from the pollination facilitated by these insects upon their path.  The Monarch butterfly route is in a continuous state of transformation.

These amazing creatures have developed unique survival skills. Unlike many birds, no single Monarch butterfly makes the entire cyclical route.  The butterflies that arrive in Mexico are descendants of the ones that left the previous spring. Much like many other animals in the wild, the effects of human interaction with nature threaten the Monarchs’ life cycle.  Our car culture, over-consumption, and sense of detachment from the natural world are all impacting the Monarchs’ ability to survive.

I would like to thank the performance artist, Rosario Garcia Crespo, whose image appears in one of the photographs wearing butterfly wings and worshiping the site of the Monarch butterflies.

SHRINE, Photo installation, 36”  x  5”, 2003, (detail)