Butterfly wings are what talented artists Vadim Zaritsky needs to make unsual paintings. Source: Valentin Bayukansky

A retired police officer turned artist and entomologist, Vadim Zaritsky does not care for politics, yet his forecast was very accurate. Ahead of the recent parliamentary election, he made portraits of the leaders of Russian parties that, in his opinion, were to make it into the State Duma. Zaritsky now wants to give his pictures to, respectively, Gennady Zyuganov, Sergei Mironov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the hope of surprising the politicians with likenesses of their faces made entirely of butterfly wings.

Zaritsky has pioneered the art form of using butterfly wings instead of paint. Although some African masters have used butterfly wings in their art, no one has yet matched the Russian artist’s pinpoint precision.

“A butterfly lives for just a few weeks, while my pictures give people a chance to admire it for many years,” Zaritsky said, speaking about his art.

In some ways, Zaritsky has been preparing for this creative pursuit his entire life; he began collecting butterflies as a child.

“Butterfly collectors know that some wings are considered – collectors call it trash,” Zaritsky said. “If the wings are damaged, if they have partially faded, specialists would usually put them aside. It’s a shame to throw them away but you cannot use them either. In time, the bits may become infested with pests and you have to throw everything away anyway.”

One day it dawned on Zaritsky that these bits and pieces could be recycled into art. Over the past five years, the artist has created more than 100 pictures of varying size and theme. As artist and entomologist, he clearly prefers restrained color combinations to glaring fluorescent colors, which he uses very rarely. His works include still lifes, genre pieces, philosophical works, portraits and landscapes. He has even copied some celebrated masters, such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso and Vrubel. Zaritsky’s largest picture, which measures nearly six-and-a-half feet is entitled “The Catcher.”

 Zaritsky believes humans are not fully aware of the part insects play in the world. If all insect species were wiped out, it would be fatal for human civilization. Meanwhile, should all humanity go out of existence altogether, insects are unlikely even to notice. For reference, only the butterfly species that are known to contemporary science number some 150,000.

Zaritsky’s main objective is not just to create beautiful mosaics but also to offer a new perspective on the outside world. His latest picture, measuring five feet, features a female artist of the Stone Age. The woman’s shadow resembles the wing of a gigantic butterfly, projecting rocks – the outline of the African and South American continents. The author explores the idea of how a person becomes an artist: What goes on in the person’s mind and what drives him or her to create artistic images. Zaritsky himself is constantly searching for new images and inspiration.

“My ambition is to create decorative, black-and-white pictures bordering on photography. My works tell about myself and the world around me,” the artist speculates. “This is genuine creativeness for me.”

His philosophy is not, however, for everyone. Overly sensitive women tend to accuse the artist of cruelty toward winged insects.“I’ve spent quite a time explaining that I don’t torture or kill any butterflies,” Zaritsky said. “My collector friends are helping me: They bring me wings for my works, and I give them butterflies for their collections in return.”

To reassure sensitive insect activists, he often quotes Vladimir Murzin, a well-known Russian entomologist: “Insects are a natural link in the food chain between plants and vegetables. Nature has designed them as a source of food for other species. This kind of natural extermination has no effect on insect populations, since they multiply at an even faster rate. For instance, in just one Texas district, cave bats eat over 240 tons of insects every night. What damage could we, entomologists, possibly cause?”

Last year, Zaritsky retired from his job as a lieutenant colonel in the police force and committed himself completely to creating new works of art.

“I have finally got in touch with my origins,” Zaritsky said. “Previously, I worked to earn a living and neglected the things that made me happy. Although, I must say, I always gravitated toward a creative perception. Even as a navy officer or a policeman, I always seized upon any chance to experience the beauty of the world. Now I rejoice in the possibility of creating my works whenever I want.”