Exquisite Creatures, exquisite world

Currently showing at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is this fantastic exhibit we all owe it to ourselves to see. It is the work of Christopher Marley, showcasing the immense beauty of the other creatures in the world around us. You can follow him on Instagram @phermone_christophermarley .

Blue stair 2

‘Exquisite Creatures’ – don’t miss it!

As an avid gardener, plant lover, skier, etc., I already profess to being an avid Biophiliac. Whether in wild or curated form, Nature is my escape. It soothes me, it distracts me, it chases the demons out of my head, and restores my sanity and ability to deal with life. But of course landscapes and plants are only part of the Great Existential Mystery. This exhibits lifts the animals onto center stage. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous exhibit. I took some pictures, but if you are within a day trip of Portland, Oregon, I highly recommend you go see it for yourself if you haven’t already. The whole thing is just drippingly stunning and delicious! You have until February 17 (which is great, because it gives me a chance to return. I tried my best, but am sure I missed half of it. Give yourself time…)

Blue butterflies circle

One of the first works you see as you enter. That iridescence is spellbinding. So very beautiful!

Bird green

My first reaction to seeing the headless bird was – well, not that. I was so fascinated by the flawless form and the amazing coloration that I almost forgot what it was, beyond perfection personified. The second I realized, I have to say I was kind of relieved the head was missing. Nothing wrong with heads, but omitting it also somehow omitted the expression of death.

Parrots whole

See what I mean? Further along in the exhibit were these parrots displayed, heads intact. They too were beautiful, but more than anything else, they were a reminder for the urgency of protecting and conserving the thousands of species that are on the brink of extinction in our overheating, overpopulated world.

Parrot death certificate

Each animal used in these artworks come from various sources after they have died. I’m not sure what this label says, but I think it gives you the details of from where and when it came.

Insect mosaic 2

There were stunning jewel-like mosaics of insects, showing a baffling range of diversity. Each insect is a work of art—which is the main point of the exhibit. Christopher Marley wants you to truly *see* our fellow co-inhabitants of this planet. It is a humbling proposition, to view their incredible variation, and knowing that so many are being crushed under the boot of ever-encroaching humanity. It’s sobering indeed.

Beetle color study 3

Color is a main component of this exhibit, and variation within each specie. Seeing them side by side like this is quite mind blowing…  A long time ago, I learned that iridescence is a result of so called structural color, which “…is manifested in its inherent physical surface geometries rather than as a separately applied layer of pigment…”(Linked to an old post of mine, but halfway down it explains the phenomenon of iridescence, if you’re interested.)

Color study 1

When you see them like this, it can be hard to unhinge your eyes from the pattern, and focus your appreciation the individual components. I was astounded how well preserved all these marvelous insects were. Each one was perfectly intact.

Mamba tail

The reptiles were just sumptuous in their mounted elegance. This is the tail of a Mamba – I think. Those who know me know that I have a totally irrational fear of snakes. It has gotten better over the years (I have worked hard on it), but these snakes were fantastic!

Whip snake 2

The wreath of Whip snakes was incredibly slick…

Turtle spiral

… as was this spiral made up of turtle shells of varying sizes. Just fabulous!

Horned insect wreath

The smooth color gradation of this wreath of stag beetles (I think) is lovely!

Beetle gemstone mandala full

I love how color intensity and pattern definition draws your eye into the center of this beetle mandala. They look good enough to eat!

Bird beetle butterfly mandala

This composite bird/stag beetle/butterfly/etc. mandala was one of my favorites. There’s that headless bird again, with the rack of a stag beetle added for effect. Such a fantastic creature! I must mention how incredible impressed I am by the kind of skill that must have gone into the preservation of all these different species. I’m flabbergasted – not a fiber was out of place – anywhere! Absolutely glorious work!

Bird beetle butterfly mandala detail

Better detail here!

Bird butterfly mandala

Here is another favorite. Actually, I had about fifty favorites, so that word really doesn’t mean much in this setting. It’s as impossible to choose as naming a favorite plant. Maybe a favorite genus, but that’s as far as I’ll commit.

Bird butterfly egg mandala detail

Here is a closer detail. That tiny, purple beetle between the wings is a nice touch, and I appreciate the use of eggs.

We were shown a short film before entering the exhibit, where the artist explained his work. Apparently, he was crazy about reptiles growing up, and asked us viewers to try to find out which animals we were most drawn to. My ever-evolving list includes beetles and butterflies, octopus, birds, lizards, and crustaceans.

Octopus mandala

The octopuses are crazy cool!

Octopus with insect

I feel like a broken record, but damn –  they are fantastic! This one is holding some sort of  insect.

Octopus with insect detail

Curiosity is related to intelligence, and Octopuses are highly intelligent animals. Good thing they don’t have thumbs, or us dumb humans would be in trouble…

Purple glittery dragon flies 3

The Dragonflies are pretty awesome, too. I love how their shadows becomes part of the pattern.

Crabs galore

Can you believe the variety in crabs? Such amazing creatures!

Two headed snake 2

This poor fella lived out his life with two heads. I managed to cut his head off in the IG post, so will add it here instead. Such a fascinating mutation, I didn’t want you to miss it.

Sand dollars 2

This Sand dollar display was all the more interesting because of the cut-out rectangle in the center. It added dimensional depth.

Chameleon walk 1

The receding sizes of these Chameleons create the illusion that they are climbing downward. Clever…

Lizard green black

I’ve always loved lizards. All the animals so artfully displayed looked so alive and vibrant, it was as if they would be able to dart, slither, or flutter out of view at any moment. Below is a striking study in monochrome with snake, feathers and fish.

Butterfly mandala red orange yellow white

I’ll finish with a few more mandalas. This is another one of my fifty or so favorites.

Beetle mandala red green blueButterfly black green mandala kaleidoscopeLizard mandalaButterfly black white mandala

You can see why it’s hard to choose a favorite, right? You really need to take some time out and go see this—I promise, you won’t regret it! It’s a glorious display of what marvels still dwell on this planet we call home, but it is also a call for action. With the Australian continent on fire, and the reported “billions of animals” perished in the bushfires, for as gorgeous as this is, it should help lighting a much needed fire under our own asses. The insect apocalypse is already here, and our bird populations are rapidly declining  –  and not only because birds need insects to sustain themselves. Homo sapiens is the only specie I know of that is steadily and alarmingly increasing. (Well, maybe certain types of toxic algae, too… ) Anyway, you get the point. Beauty is everywhere we look, around the world… until it isn’t. Exquisite Creatures is great inspiration to protect our exquisite home, and a celebration of the glorious biological diversity that we are all a part of. Peace out!


PS. One thing that made me giggle a little…. Most displays had signage, listing the Latin and common names, geographical detail, etc., of all these fabulous creatures. That is, until I came to a section of carefully mounted pitcher plants, or Sarracenias (you know the insect eating kinds). Some of them were quite unusual, and it would have been nice to learn what they were. But, they were all listed as ‘Sarracenia sp.’


I get it—we all have our favorites, and honestly—I know very little zoological Latin, and maybe they ran out of time. But, by comparison, I thought it was kind of cute. 🙂


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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12 Responses to Exquisite Creatures, exquisite world

  1. bergstromskan says:

    Fantastic display and photo-congratulations Anna. The beauty, aliveness and fun in the different displays are amazing. And your comments so appropriate. I love it, and I vill share on my FB page and through other channels. Thank you

  2. This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing Anna!

  3. Alison says:

    What a fascinating exhibit! Truly beautiful and unique works of art.

  4. Pat Leuchtman says:

    Wow! What a fantastic exhibit. It is stunning. I love those beautiful blue butterflies – and the salamanders (?) and everything.

  5. They are extraordinary and very beautiful – thank you for sharing – that was a real treat.

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