Artful Insects

These bugs could be the star of a sci-fi movie, but instead they are the star attraction at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The “Big Bugs at the Garden” exhibit opens Saturday, September 16, and will be on view until New Year’s Day.
The giant sculptures are created from natural found forest materials, and are the inspired work of artist David Rogers. Based in Long Island, NY, David had an artistic epiphany in 1990 while visiting a cousin’s farm in Vermont. “I encountered a maple sapling bent over from previous winter’s ice storm. There was something about the curvature and posture of this particularly ravaged tree – a backbone to a large beast, perhaps that suggested a new life for the tree.”
Over the course of 12 days, he created a “dinosaur” sculpture using dried branches and different varieties of tree saplings. “This first large-scale branch construction sculpture encompassed and crystallized all of my previous work and life experience. It would forever transform my perception of what could be conceived and created using all-natural materials,” he explained.
David always thought bugs were a great subject matter, and he decided to create the bugs to be larger-than-life so when we see them in nature, we might see them in a different way. “I thought if I reversed the natural scale maybe we would observe them differently and the more important role they play in nature,” he said.
Since in 1994, his Big Bugs have toured public and private botanical gardens and nature centers in 40 states, including the prestigious National Arboretum and the United States Botanic Garden, both in Washington, DC, and Disney World Epcot Center in Orlando, FL. “My initial goal was simple enough, I was inspired to make sculpture out of the natural materials that was fun to look at. The exhibit evolved to become something much bigger by raising awareness, as well as providing more opportunities for broader educational platforming,” he said.
While at the Memphis Botanic Garden, a series of special bug-themed events are planned including an opening-day picnic on the lawn (September 16), movie nights (A Bug’s Life, October 7; Beetlejuice, October 28), a young-adult/millennial-oriented Bug (pub) Crawl (September 30), and many more during the exhibit’s 100+ day run.
While normally Terminix is tasked with eradicating bugs, they are the presenting sponsor for the Big Bugs exhibit. Additional supporting sponsors are International Paper, Speer Charitable Trust, AutoZone, and Orion Federal Credit Union. With their help, the Memphis Botanic Garden is reaching out to schools throughout the community to encourage and assist in their attendance and educational opportunities, courtesy of these enormous insects.
Experiencing Big Bugs is free with garden admission. Call 901-636-4100 or visit for full schedule of events and information.