Live Bugs Are This Artist's Painting Assistants

Before you even ask, No: No insects were harmed during the making of any of this.

by DJ Pangburn
27 October 2016, 3:40pm

Images courtesy the artist

Some people see an insect and think, "Pest!" Steven Kutcher, a bug enthusiast and artist, revels in these creatures. From a young age Kutcher found it easier to engage with bugs than humans. Eventually, he parlayed his insect expertise into work as a “bug wrangler” on Hollywood productions.

But more recently Kutcher has been using bugs to create abstract paintings—colorful, impressionistic and non-toxic works that showcase the scuttling bugs’ paths across canvas. In the new documentary short, Bug Man, Los Angeles-based writer and director Iqbal Ahmed gets Kutcher to talk about both his life with bugs, and the art he makes with them.

For a first stab at the documentary genre, Ahmed’s work is as engrossing as it is beautifully shot. Before settling on Kutcher’s story, Ahmed tells The Creators Project that he made a list of “really weird things” that might exist in the world without knowing if any of them actually existed.

“One of those was bug wrangling for movies,” Ahmed says. “I knew there were animal wranglers in Hollywood, and I was convinced there would be bug wranglers. Turns out there were, and I ultimately stumbled across Steven Kutcher.”

Kutcher’s story interested Ahmed on a number of levels. Fascinated with the science of insects, Ahmed’s “inner nerd” was satisfied with the job of bug wrangling. He was also incredibly interested in the fact that Kutcher made art with insects.

“The art side was wildly inventive and particularly visual and, perhaps most of all, the human perspective was compelling,” says Ahmed. “Steven was a man who turned to insects as a child for companionship. He just jived better with nature. And to see how that blossomed into a career and then ultimately an artistic pursuit was incredible.”  

For Bug Man, Ahmed wanted the audience to get a brief glimpse inside Kutcher’s universe, but also wanted to structure the film so that initially things seemed out of context. As viewers might perhaps make incorrect assumptions about Kutcher, the film instead slowly unveils new information that contrasts his solitude and emotional state.

“This art is my passion and I’m really well suited to being able to do it with my background,” Kutcher tells Ahmed. “It’s like my life and experiences have brought me to exactly this moment."

“I’m always trying something new or inventing things,” he adds. “My ex-wife told me 'Steve, you’ll never realize how many peoples’ lives you’ve touched,’ so I knew to move forward with my art."

Kutcher says that studying bugs has opened up avenues of adventures that he never imagined possible. It all comes down to the fact that he is just interested in the world and how it works.

“I’ve noticed this about people—they’ll walk down a pathway and they won’t see anything,” he says. “But when I’m walking with another biologist, we’ll spend the whole day walking maybe fifty feet because there’s so much to see. People just don’t see what’s right in front of them.”

Bug Man from Iqbal Ahmed on Vimeo.

Click here to see Steven Kutcher’s bug art, and here to check out more of Iqbal Ahmed’s video work.


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