In a cozy studio overlooking a garden in Blackwell, Missouri, artist Larysa Bernhardt creates colorful moth sculptures with a needle and thread. Her fabric creatures are embroidered with old tapestries, often portraying historical people, animals, and delicate botanical forms on their wings: one specimen with a rusty orange abdomen depicts a little bird taking flight, while another is blue with a Medieval woman looking at a flower.
Able to stand on their own or hang from the wall, the handmade moths feature eyes made from Czech glass beads and bodies of cotton velvet and Belgian linen. Bernhardt also wires their wings, enabling people to shape them into their desired position.
The artist initially began by collecting vintage textiles, including silk tapestries and wool, and was interesting in analyzing and unraveling their histories, taking an interest in how creatures, such as moths, often inhabit such materials. “I have some very old wool and silk tapestries, and I’m still trying to unravel the stories behind them. Those will never be cut, they’re treasures, and I’m constantly checking for moth larvae…and just like that, moths entered the chat! What I love and what I fear melded into my work, in what I believe is a magical, albeit slightly menacing way.”
In addition to the material components, the moths are inspired by travel, television shows, books, and “even phrases someone drops in the grocery line to checkout,” Bernhardt says. “I will never tire of seeing how magically creative humans are,” Bernhardt explains.