Artist Faces Backlash After Killing Butterflies And Using Their Wings for a Painting Symbolizing Rebirth

A Chinese art student sparked a heated debate online after using the wings of over 500 butterflies to create a series of artworks symbolizing rebirth. While some consider her “sick” for using butterfly wings as an art medium, others think her creations qualify as original art.

Li Zheng, a fourth-year art student at Quanzhou Normal University in Fujian province, China, created a series of artworks consisting of meticulously arranged butterfly wings as part of her graduation piece. She and her colleagues were instructed by their lecturer to recreate famous artworks using different materials. Li decided she wanted to recreate some of the masterpieces of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, but at first, she had no idea what materials she was going to use.

Photo: video screengrab

While doing some research, Li Zheng discovered an artist who used butterfly wings in their art, and she realized that, in most cultures, the tiny insects symbolized renewal and rebirth, which made them a very intriguing art medium. So she somehow got her hands on around 500 butterflies and used their colorful wings to recreate some of Van Gogh’s paintings, including his famous self-portrait.

Photo: video screengrab

There’s no question that Zheng’s butterfly artworks actually look really impressive, but what a lot of people seem to have a problem with is that some of the butterflies she used during the creative process were actually alive. The artist herself admits that, but claims she is not at all ashamed of her actions, because they actually fit into the whole “rebirth” symbolism. The insects may have died at her hands, but they were (technically) reborn as a piece of art.

Photo: video screengrab

“I am not ashamed of my artworks,” Li said. “While working on these pieces, I actually thought long and hard whether to continue using butterflies as the primary medium. In the end, I decided to keep using them, as I felt that they play a vital role in expressing “rebirth”, despite the accusations of animal cruelty.”


Li Zheng’s butterfly wing paintings seem to have split Chinese social media in two. One side is accusing her of killing the insects for a petty purpose and claiming that she has mental problems, while the other believes that her pieces qualify as original art, and accuses her critics of applying a double standard. They say the use of butterflies wouldn’t have been an issue had it been done by a foreign artist.

via World of Buzz