Skip to Content
Skip to Search
Skip to Navigation
Skip to Content

University of Connecticut University Libraries

January 16 - May 11, 2007


Actias dubernardi. Digital print by Joseph Scheer.
Saturnia walterorum. Digital print by Joseph Scheer.

Night Flyers: Digital Prints by Joseph Scheer

Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of moths is their biodiversity. Taxonomically, Lepidoptera and butterflies both belong to the Order of Lepidoptera, i.e., “scale-winged” in Greek. However, with approximately 150,000 named species, all of which share a common ancestor, moths are far more diverse than butterflies, which number only about 23,000 species. Another estimated 70-90,000 species of Lepidoptera remain undiscovered in nature and unnamed by scientists.

What began with Joseph Scheer as an art installation has become a major biodiversity project. Compelled by number and variety of the moths he was collecting, he wondered if it were possible to document every species existing in Allegheny County, New York, where he lives works. This project has now expanded to include specimens from the whole world. His ongoing effort to link art and environmental activism in place facilitates new visual access to nature, revealing the disquieting beauty of moths with all their preposterous hair and scales. It also offers new ways of “reading” elements of the natural world by incorporating the use of new technologies.

Digital scanning technology allows for the examination of the insects at a very high resolution, creating an effect of hyper-real vision and allowing us to see structures of the insect that the naked eye cannot discern. Heavy watercolor papers are used to bring warmth to the quality of the images produced with large format ink jet printers. Scheer selects moths to study and create work from based on their diversity and their rich mythology. That they are also a group of insects about which most people know little, in either visual or environmental terms, adds to the general interest of the images.

Joseph Scheer is professor of print media and codirector/ founder of the Institute for Electronic Arts at the School of Art and Design, Alfred University. His current works, which span print, video and web based projects, use technology to re-examine nature through interpretive collecting and visual recording. His most recent work has been exhibited at The Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Museum of China in Beijing, The Field Museum in Chicago, and has traveled to four major museums in Sweden. He has published two books about his work: Night Visions: The Secret Designs of Moths and Night Flyers. His work has been written about in over 120 books and periodicals including: National Geographic, The New York Times, ArtNews, ArtForum, Science, Nature, Forbes, American Photo, DER SPIEGEL, and The Chronicle for Higher Education.

Babbidge Library, Stevens Gallery
Curators: David Kapp and David Avery

Images from the exhibit are available here.

Special Presentation: Mothing
Joseph Scheer will show images of his work and discuss his ongoing efforts to document the moths of the world on Sunday, March 25 at 1:30 pm in the Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center. A reception will follow his talk. The public is cordially invited to attend.

Return to main library exhibits page