Microsculpture: The Insect Portraits Of Levon Biss

levonbiss00  The Oxford Natural History Museum is a wonderful gem of a building (not least because of the amazing Pitt Rivers museum tucked away at the back, with every corner, shelf and drawer stuffed with antiquity) and amongst the dinosaur bones and dodos there’s often a temporary exhibition which at the moment is the outstanding photography of Levon Biss. It’s not the first time that the museum’s extensive entomology collection has attracted artists (see a previous visit where some pictures of Masashi Kimura were being exhibited), but this installation really is something special.

The highly detailed photographs and a video showing how it was done can be found at the artists snazzy dedicated website but in physical form, up close and personal, the detail and intricacy of these mini beasts is just amazing. The exhibition is all the more impressive since the actual insects used are also there in display cases: creatures millimetres across next to their photographic counterparts several feet in dimension, really emphasising what an incredible feat has been achieved.

Naturally, given my research interests, I was drawn to the legs of each and the stunning detail of joints and hairs (the hairs provide feedback to the locomotory mechanisms) but the detail on the eyes, wings of those with wings is sublime. Of course, souvenirs available from the gift shop and I left well stocked, but managed to resist the signed prints…. just!

 Low resolution example and screen capture of zoomed in section from website.

Read the Guardian article “Microsculpture: hidden beauty of the bugs beneath our feet”. The exhibition was due to run until the end of October, but has recently been extended to the end of December.


Mathematician at the University of Warwick in the UK with research interests in equivariant bifurcation theory and applications, especially in modelling of insect locomotion. Teaching interests include online learning and innovative teaching methods. Also in a past life has been involved in summer school courses, and online material, for Gifted and Talented. He has been active on the Internet since 1995, initially though his UFO and Michael Schenker website, but now through a multitude of projects.

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