Taking Flight: Art in the Cockrell Butterfly Center

January 28, 2010

“Taking Flight” is a temporary art exhibition in our butterfly center, displaying the artwork of 6th – 12th grade students from three of the seven YES Prep Public School campuses. Inspired by science, or simply a love of nature, they are all wonderful depictions of different butterflies and insects – and a beautiful illustration of the intersection of science and art.

Today we highlight the work of Alyssa Valdez. She gave us a little insight into her work and the carnivorous caterpillar in the q&a below.

The Predator
Alyssa Valdez, 11th grade

Artist Statement: “The carnivorous caterpillar caught my eye because it’s unusual and something you don’t see every day. This painting portrays two perspectives on the carnivorous caterpillar. The first is a close-up of a carnivorous caterpillar as he is preparing to eat his prey. The second is of his attack on a fruit fly.”

1. What was your inspiration for creating this piece? Why did you choose to portray carnivorous caterpillars?

My goal was to portray an insect that was both disgusting and unusual…the problem was I didn’t know what I was going to choose.  One day my boyfriend brought up carnivorous caterpillars in a conversation, and I knew I wanted to portray [them]. It was something out of the ordinary. Plus, these caterpillars are so small, but their name makes them sound so scary and intimidating.

2. The subject is a little gruesome – but you rendered it with very cheerful colors. Why?

I wanted to zoom in on the detailed profile of the insect, as if someone was taking notes and sketching to capture the caterpillar in action. I was also experimenting with colors with this piece. I wanted to exaggerate the action, and I wanted it to be eye catching. I had the idea, “what if something so gruesome could look so beautiful?” I hope it makes people stop and take a second look.

3. What role should art play in science?

I think the goal of art in science is to make observations and capture aesthetics. I find chicken scratch short notes and rough sketching to be artistic, so it only seems appropriate to mesh the two together.

4. Do you think you’ll use scientific concepts for your art in the future?

Gruesome is my best friend. In science there are many things that people might find morbid or gruesome, but I find fascinating.  For example, I have recently learned about and become interested in forensic sciences and how insects have been used to help solve murder crimes and mysteries. The world isn’t always pretty rainbows and cute kittens. I like to magnify the things people don’t always see, even some of the things that could make people’s stomachs turn.

Don’t miss Alyssa’s “The Predator” – or any of the other beautiful works of art now on display in “Taking Flight,” on the lower level of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. The exhibition will be available through March 31.

Authored By Steven Cowan

Steven never dreamed his first job out of college would be in public relations, and on top of that working for one of the top museums in the country. After all, he majored in History at Vassar College. Within three months of graduation, he landed a spot in the PR department and has not looked back since. He is fast becoming a communications fanatic, spending a tremendous amount of his time promoting the museum and all it has to offer.

7 responses to “Taking Flight: Art in the Cockrell Butterfly Center”

  1. Leigh Anne Rayburn says:

    The interview comments added so much to my understanding of the piece. Alyssa, this is fascinating. Congrats on such a great honor – having your art hang in such a prestigious museum — WOW.

  2. Yay Alyssa! I’m so proud of you 🙂 – Ms. Johnson

  3. Josh Hudley says:


    This is AWESOME! You’re a very talented artist and I loved your explanation of the creative influenes involved in creating your piece. Great job:-)! Mr. Hudley

  4. Ms. Lucrezio says:

    Thank you for your honest insight! I am very proud of you and your willingness to explore and be yourself in all of your artistic endeavors 🙂

  5. James Sheridan says:

    Terrific job, Alyssa. Way to represent your school and to show your amazing creativity! Congratulations, again.

  6. Ray Green says:

    As usual, you’ve captured a unique quality and helped others pay attention to it. In addition, you’ve added a piece of yourself and your interests to this work. Very nice!

  7. Valeria Alvarado says:

    this looks so good, outstanding work(: mine art was chosen too. it isn’t really clear in the picture, but I think being recognized for my work is an amazing opportunity. thank you so much YES PREP se and Ms. Johnson(: !

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