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.


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.

Watch me folding butterflies