Who knew common house flies could be such talented artists? Los Angeles artist John Knuth discovered their potential and started feeding them sugar mixed with watercolor pigments so they could create stunning works of art through their natural external digestive process.
John Knuth is not the first artist to collaborate with nature in order to create art, but his way of doing things is definitely unique. The young American artist harvests hundreds of thousands of house flies from maggots he orders online. Once he has enough, he places them in a closed environment where the surface they can land on is limited to the canvas, and begins feeding them a mixture of sugar, water and watercolor pigments. When flies eat they digest externally so they are in a constant state of regurgitation. After a few weeks, the entire canvas is covered with millions of tiny colorful specks of fly vomit, and a surprisingly beautiful painting is revealed. Chance plays a big role in this collaborative artistic effort, but Knuth says he has greater control than is revealed in the artworks (colors, build ups etc).
“I started working with the flies because I was curious about how flies spread disease and how they digest,” John Knuth said in a recent interview with KCET. “The more I worked with them the more I got interested in the process of condensing them to make something beautiful and beyond their nature. To me these paintings have become analogous to Los Angeles. There are denser areas and there are marks that sprawl around the canvas.” It’s not clear how ingesting color pigments for long periods of time affects the house flies, but since they’re not exactly the most beloved of God’s creatures, I doubt too many people will object to how they are treated. Still, despite the originality of the artistic process, and the uniqueness of the artworks, some might consider Knuth’s art cruel.
The Los Angeles-based artist says he will continue to make fly paintings, and has plans for a long-term series of works. Fly puke paintings, who would have thunk it, right?