Project Room

Franky Cruz:
Vivarium Meconium

Locust Projects presents Vivarium Meconium, an indoor butterfly nursery by Miami-based artist Franky Cruz. In a practice that borrows from plant cultivation and native-species conservation, Cruz dons the hat of hobbyist entomologist and cultivates butterflies--from egg to chrysalis to hatchling--during his eight-week residency at Locust Projects. 

Vivarium Meconium takes the form of an enclosed, vegetal environment where native, butterfly-friendly plants, shelving units, terrariums, pedestals and a grid of pupae become the stage for an ecological intervention into Cruz’ painting practice. These sites are temporary homes for butterflies, specifically of the Painted Lady and Monarch varieties, at each stage in their lifecycle. Cruz raises the butterflies with the diligence of scientific methodology and the nurturing of someone who deeply cares for these creatures. Of particular interest to him is their meconium, or the fluid they release upon emerging from their chrysalis, which he collects onto watercolor paper laid beneath them in this process. The delicate umber, ochre and iridescent tones of these secretions drip and splatter onto the paper, creating a series of studies that recall the history of action painting and scientific treatises. 

The project culminates Cruz’ years-long fascination with butterflies and their yearly migration across the Americas; their dwindling numbers, along with those of other pollinators; and their niche within South Florida’s particular ecological topography. In an earlier project, working with the Live Monarch Foundation, Cruz approached his work with these insects as an empathic exercise and helped to repair the wings of injured butterflies. Vivero follows in this verve, where Cruz explores the possibilities of scientific inquiry as a form of ecological activism, and provokes his viewers to question their own effects on their environments.

In many ways, Vivarium Meconium is a project about byproducts, waste and reuse, and the impacts made to the natural world as a result of industrialization and contemporary manufacturing practices. Cruz’ experiment can be described as a butterfly-powered painting factory, where the butterflies themselves, as a result of their natural development, donate their meconium as the medium for a series of unlikely watercolor works. Their secretions are reused and recycled and, ultimately, the exhaust expelled by this system are the butterflies themselves; released into the surrounding neighborhood and mobile butterfly garden


Franky Cruz (b. 1984, Dominican Republic) received his BFA from the New World School of the Arts, Miami, in 2011. He has participated in residencies at HomeBase Project, Berlin, and the Airie Residency at the Everglades National Park, FL, where he explores conservation issues as part of his interdisciplinary practice. Most recently, Cruz completed a residency at Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Miami galleries and spaces including Spinello Projects (2016 & 2014), Dorsch Gallery (2015), and Primary Projects (2011), among others. Cruz currently lives and works in Miami, FL.

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