The late Terence McKenna – perhaps best known as the most eloquent of the patron saints of psychedelia – led a truly memorable life of adventure and discovery. Ethnobotany was just one particular interest in a larger fascination with the world in general – he collected everything from historically important texts on the occult to rare shamanic plants. He was an avid buttefly collector as well, and during his extended travels procured more than two thousand specimens from all over the world, including Asia and South America.
McKenna’s daughter Klea discovered some of this butterfly collection in its original state, with the butteflies still ‘sealed’ within their original packing – newspapers, articles, notes and napkins, anything that McKenna could use to fold the butterfly specimen into. This packing added its own historical story to the still beauty of the butterfly specimens, so Klea McKenna photographed a large number of them and created a gallery titled ‘The Butterfly Hunter’. During and fter the exhibit, she gave away the collection to gallery visitors! In her words:
The instinct to preserve something often means that we covet it and keep it hidden away, but I have found that objects can exert their will on us and preservation can become a burden. Rather than covet my father’s collection, I’d like to let go of it. For this reason…I gradually gave away every image in the piece to gallery visitors. The act of scattering these images was meant to diffuse the responsibility of preservation and to give these objects a second life.
Klea McKenna has now released ‘The Butterfly Hunter’ as a gorgeous limited edition book (only 480 copies available, signed and numbered) for $US130 each. Within each copy’s covers you’ll find an introduction from Klea, an unpublished short story by Terence McKenna, old snapshots and maps used by him, and of course, 78 colour plates of the butterfly collection:
In ‘The Butterfly Hunter’ Klea McKenna creates a photographic archive of her father’s butterfly collection, hunted and preserved nearly forty years ago. The images display delicate butterflies framed by faded and stained newspapers, magazines, letters and manuscripts – materials McKenna’s father used as envelopes to hold his findings. The headlines and fragmented news stories paint a conflicted portrait of the era. Each image holds narratives that are at once personal and historical. McKenna has used this unique material to create a moving and relevant piece
You can view samples of the content in the beautiful gallery at Klea McKenna’s website (under ‘Portfolios’/’The Buttefly Hunter’), which has both images and wonderful commentary about it as well, while Erik Davis has more about it on his TechGnosis website. Looks absolutely gorgeous, I doubt they will last long – I’m pretty close to picking one up for myself, but the exchange rate adds a rather nasty surcharge for me at the moment! (h/t – David Pescovitz of Boing Boing)
Previously on TDG: McKenna Library Burns