For about a month, during late spring and again in early fall, lovebugs swarm across the Gulf States. Attracted to the smell of decomposing plants, they find similar odors in car exhaust and tend to swarm in parking lots. Their conjoined bodies make for an unusual display as they copulate while floating a few feet above the ground, and a nuisance for people that must clean the splattered bodies off their car.
This semi-annual event caught the attention and imagination of Vik Muniz while in residency at Graphicstudio. Muniz was fascinated by the blatant sexuality of the lovebug swarms, so much so that he developed an idea for a new series of prints involving them. His idea was to arrange hundreds, thousands of lovebugs into positions from the Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu text of human sexuality. Embracing the fleeting nature of the lovebug swarms, each arrangement would only exist long enough to be photographed, then rearranged to form a new position from the Kama Sutra.
Actually harvesting lovebugs presented numerous challenges and it ended up taking several years to acquire enough insects to produce imagery. Several unusually small lovebug mating cycles made it clear that it would take more than just Graphicstudio to collect enough. Students, faculty and staff across the USF campus were asked to keep watch and let Graphicstudio know when they saw any lovebugs swarming. After several years and much amateur entomology over 2,500 lovebugs were harvested and used to create each of the twelve images featured in the Lovebugs suite. Each position was painstakingly assembled and photographed. The photographic positives were then used to etch a plate through the photogravure process. An edition of 20 prints were inked and pressed from each of the twelve images.
Lovebugs was unveiled at the IFPDA Print Fair in New York in early November 2014 and shown at Ink Miami in December 2014. Download a PDF of the document sheet with pricing information and the full suite of images here.