Many artists are inspired by nature, but few collaborate with it in quite the same way as John Knuth. When you look at his paintings, you see broad swaths of color that appear to be meticulous impressionistic abstractions. But what you are actually looking at is the vomit of thousands of flies.
To make the paintings, Knuth harvests flies en masse from maggots which he orders online. He creates his paints out of sugar mixed with watercolor pigments, which are then fed to the flies. The specks of color that appear on Knuth's canvases are what occurs as a result of the flies' natural external digestive process—essentially, regurgitation. The video above, produced for The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, shows some of the process in action.
Still video frame showing detail from one of Knuth's paintings.
It is not clear how this process affects the lives of the flies, but there's no doubt that some will believe it to be a gratuitous misuse of nature. Damien Hirst took a lot of flack last year for the demise of butterflies used for an installation. House flies are not exactly as beloved as butterflies, so the public reaction may not be as fervent. Still, Knuth's use of living things may at best be distasteful, at worst, cruel.