This exhibition presents excerpts from artist Peter Kuper’s forthcoming graphic novel, which he developed during his tenure as the Jean Strouse Fellow at The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in 2020–21. Kuper was inspired by his experiences exploring the Library while conducting research on the history of insects. He began his fellowship during the COVID-19 pandemic and was thus able to access the building during a time when it was closed to the general public. Finding himself virtually alone in the vast Beaux-Arts rooms and hallways of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, he began imagining arthropods occupying this unexpectedly and unprecedentedly vacant environment.
INterSECTS is an homage to the tiny, underappreciated creatures that touch everything people do and on which our very survival depends. The exhibition traces the evolution of insects over 400 million years and narrates their intersection with Homo sapiens right up to the present day—a story that will be expanded when the graphic novel is completed. Kuper also investigates the contributions of entomologists and other naturalists represented in the Library’s vast collection of treasures—including Maria Sibylla Merian, Charles Henry Turner, and Vladimir Nabokov—who dedicated themselves to illuminating the value of insects in all their beauty and mystery.