Born Again



Basswood, silk, shellac

48 inches X 48 inches X 28 inches

Cicadas have long been present in mythology, folklore and art. Because they spend, on average eight to ten years underground in the nymph stage, then emerge and shed their skins, they have represented resurrection and immortality for millenia. The male cicada's song has been celebrated in many cultures, and it is among the loudest of any insect-produced sounds. Cicadas have been represented in many materials-carved in jade, cast as coins, and Roman nobility used golden cicadas as hair adornments.

There is a Zuni story about Cicada and Coyote that goes like this: One day Coyote came upon Cicada sitting in a tree and singing. Coyote thought Cicada's song was so beautiful that he asked Cicada to teach him the song. Cicada, being good-hearted, did, and Coyote went along his journey, praciticing the song. Not watching where he was going, Coyote fell into a hole, and forgot the song as he was working to climb out. He made his way back to Cicada and asked him to please teach him the song again. Cicada, still being a bit flattered, taught Coyote the song again. Coyote promptly walked into a tree and forgot the song. Again, he went back and asked Cicada to teach him the song. Cicada complyed, but reasoned that he would never get any peace, because Coyote was such a dork. so, Cicada shed his skin, and sewed it up with rocks inside. When Coyote came back, of course, he had forgotten the song again, and he begged Cicada to teach him the song one more time. He got no reply. He asked again and again, each time, no response. Coyote got angry, and when Cicada wouldn't respond yet again, Coyote chomped down on Cicada. He bit down very hard on what was the cicada skin filled with rocks and broke his beautiful straight teeth into the jagged smile they are today.

I constructed this piece with what I call "stolen Boy Technology". When I was little, my brother and my dad built balsa model airplanes. I remember looking over their shoulders, wishing that I could help. soooo..... this piece is made by modeling the shape of the cicada with thin strips of basswood, covering it with silk and coating it with shellac, in the same fashion that those airplanes were constructed. shellac itself is actually a secrection of a type of insect, harvested from trees. When I was at the hardware store buying a gallon of shellac, a friend asked what I was making, and when I replied "A giant bug skin" he said, "Oh!, so your giving it back.", nodding at the shellac. Uh huh.


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2007 Erika Wanenmacher