Fort Worth artist offers glimpse into ‘The Butterfly Case’ with talk at Love Texas Art
More than 50 of his works are on display in the downtown Fort Worth gallery through Jan. 7, but viewers will have the chance to learn more about Vallarino’s inspiration, process and body of work at an artist talk at 6 p.m. Dec. 15.
“I think it’s an important moment for people that really want to hear from the artist. It gives them a minute to be in an intimate space, in conversation with them directly,” Ariel Davis, co-owner of the gallery, said.
Vallarino was initially inspired by a wall covered in a variety of entomological specimens that he and his husband saw on a trip to New Orleans several years ago.
“For me, the butterfly case is a very odd object,” he said. “It’s gorgeous. However, the reality of it is that it’s a very macabre object. It is a carcass pinned inside of a box, in which we’re consuming the beauty of this object that used to be alive.”
More recently, the plexiglass dividers that were erected over the course of the pandemic, like the ones that stood between clerks and customers in check-out lines, added another layer to his inspiration.
Thinking about groups that are marginalized or put into boxes, Vallarino wanted to highlight immigrants and the unhoused.
In this show, and his body of work, Vallarino references religious iconography and uses insects as a stand-in for humans and how they treat each other.
“I want people to feel empathy, sympathy (or have) a moment of questioning,” he said. “I tried really hard not to point a finger at anybody or one specific way of thinking, but rather a question to ask oneself and say where do you stand on this? What are you doing to help?”
Exploring the space between what society or religious institutions say about their values in comparison to how they act on them is at the core of his work; that philosophy is embedded in his artist statement: “It is part of the human experience to avoid pain and humanity prefers to ignore painful truths rather than to confront them. As an artist addressing social issues, I feel a responsibility to create artworks that evoke questions with respect to our own behaviors towards others.”
On weekends leading up to the holidays, Davis said, about 200-300 people have come in per day to look at the exhibition.
“I think when they start to realize that it’s talking about people and not necessarily butterflies is when they realize the scale of the pin changes from the butterfly size to human-scale ones,” Davis said.
“It’s a magical moment when people are able to make that transition because all of a sudden we’ve become small, right?” Vallarino added. “Hopefully the two large pins on the side push people to feel the pain and to empathize.”
He recognizes that not everyone will pick up on the subtleties or clues embedded in his work, but, as an artist, he hopes the pieces can spark curiosity in the viewers.
“I want people to be hooked visually and then pull them in and hit them over the head with the conceptual elements,” he said. “Maybe somebody’s not going to chew on it for 10 minutes, but rather just a moment … And, with that, I’m happy.”
If you go
What: The Butterfly Case – Artist Talk with Bernardo Vallarino
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Date: Thursday, Dec. 15
Location: Love Texas Art, 501 Houston St., Fort Worth
Tickets: The event is free, but space is limited. Register here.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.