I Spy Art All Around Me: Butterflies

This collection of butterflies was created as a site specific installation for the Smallest Museum in St Paul. To the right of the Workhorse Coffee Bar’s front door, tucked into the facade of the building, is a vintage fire-hose cabinet, viewable from the sidewalk. This cabinet has been transformed into a 2 foot x 3 foot micro-museum. The Smallest Museum in St Paul fosters community engagement through art, to inspire discourse, and establish The Smallest Museum in St Paul as a destination for art enthusiasts and happen-stance side-walk traffic alike. This project promotes curiosity and appreciation for people and place.

These butterflies are made from origami-folded wrapping paper. The patterns on the paper were created from photos I took while standing on the sidewalk in front of the Smallest Museum in St Paul. I shot photos of everyday things: a light rail train, traffic signs, and brick patterns on buildings. Each photo was transformed into a repeating symmetrical pattern, printed on heavy wrapping paper and folded into a butterfly, showing the art you can find in unexpected places.

Artist’s reception: Sunday October 15, 10 am – 12 pm at Workhorse Coffee Bar. Come and have a latte with me!

Making the art

This photo collage shows the steps from photo to paper pattern to butterfly. I used a couple of different filters to bring out the colors in the photos. I wanted the butterflies to be vibrant because the cabinet where they are installed is only lit by natural light. So I wanted to make sure they would be seen.


Why origami?

I have had a fascination with origami since I was a small child. My great great uncle, Lester Grimes, “The Paper Wizard”, was a magician in the 1920s and 30s. He was known for tricks that involved paper and origami and performed one of the opening acts at the 1932 World’s Fair. He was a friend and colleague of Harry Houdini and one of the founding members of the Origami Center in NY in the 1950s.  I only knew him from family legends, but Uncle Lester was a hero to me as a kid. He was an engineer by training (he designed fire sprinklers), but I loved him because of the stories about his art and clever puzzles. He taught my dad all kinds of paper folding techniques and my dad taught them to me, occasionally entertaining us at restaurants by folding things out of paper placemats. I use origami often as a technique in my own work because it connects me back to an idea that I value highly: celebrating creativity and sharing it with others.

Materials: paper & aluminum

Each butterfly is made from a 6 inch or 8 inch square of paper. The butterflies are suspended on a cloud made from aluminum mesh. I chose silver to help bring some natural reflected light into the cabinet. Each butterfly has a wire hook on the back so I can arrange them any way I wanted to.

Can you spy the original objects I used to make the butterfly designs?

You can see the butterflies in person from October 1 – 31, 2017 at the Smallest Museum in St Paul. Play a game of “I Spy” while you are there! The photos below are the original photos that were the starting point for the butterfly designs. See if you can spot each of these objects while you are standing in front of the museum cabinet.

Want to see more art in unexpected places?

This exhibition is part of a series I have done about seeing art in unexpected places and overlooked objects. You can see some of the other projects in this series in the Prospect Park neighborhood public art installation on utility boxes and a partnership I did with forgotten objects from local museums.

Share your butterfly sighting in October!

Throughout the month of October, if you visit the museum, snap a photo and share it on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #ispybutterflies You can take a selfie, photograph the museum case or take a photo of one of the inspiration images that you can spot standing in front of the museum case. Be sure to stop inside Workhorse Coffee Bar as well and pick up a tiny piece of art to take home. I printed business cards of these photos with more info about the exhibition and you can find them on the window ledge inside the coffee shop.

If you can’t visit in person, search Instagram or Facebook for the #ispybutterflies tag and share or re-post someone else’s photo.

A butterfly could be yours! I folded more butterflies than will fit in the museum case, so I will draw names from all of the #ispybutterflies tags and send a butterfly to 8 random participants. 



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