Vadim Zaritsky, a former police officer turned artist and entomologist uses a very strange medium for his artworks – butterfly wings. The subjects of his unique paintings range from landscapes and still life to portraits of political figures and famous artists.
I know it sounds cruel, but before you label Vadim Zaritsky’s art as a crime against nature, you should know he only uses the wings of dead butterflies that died en masse he finds on the paths and roads around his home city of Lipetsk, 438 kilometers southeast of Moscow, and dead specimens donated by fellow butterfly collectors. “Butterfly collectors know that some wings are considered – collectors call it trash,” Zaritsky says. “If the wings are damaged, if they have partially faded, specialists would usually put them aside. It’s a shame to throw them away but you cannot use them either. In time, the bits may become infested with pests and you have to throw everything away anyway.” One day it occurred to him that these pieces could be recycled into art instead of simply throwing them away. So he began using these discarded wings as a medium for his art, and in the last five years he has created over 100 works of art of varying size and theme. The Russian entomologist takes between a week and several months to complete a single butterfly wing painting.
Zaritsky has been collecting butterflies ever since he was a child, but it was only after he retired from his job as a police officer, two years ago, that he began dedicating himself to this passion. “I have finally got in touch with my origins,” he says. Previously, I worked to earn a living and neglected the things that made me happy. Although, I must say, I always gravitated toward a creative perception. Even as a navy officer or a policeman, I always seized upon any chance to experience the beauty of the world. Now I rejoice in the possibility of creating my works whenever I want.” Although some African masters have used butterfly wings in their art before, none have exhibited the talent of Vadim Zaritsky, and that is precisely why he is considered a pioneer of this fascinating technique.
Most art lovers appreciate Vadim’s paintings, but there are always over-sensitive people who insist he and other entomologists are upsetting the natural balance by decimating the butterfly population. To reassure them he always quotes Vladimir Murzin, a well-known Russian entomologist: “Insects are a natural link in the food chain between plants and vegetables. Nature has designed them as a source of food for other species. This kind of natural extermination has no effect on insect populations, since they multiply at an even faster rate. For instance, in just one Texas district, cave bats eat over 240 tons of insects every night. What damage could we, entomologists, possibly cause?”
“A butterfly lives for just a few weeks, while my pictures give people a chance to admire it for many years,” Zaritsky concludes.