C. Owen is a Chicago-based artist who creates eerie, black-and-white portraits of insects and animals — particularly those that have died or have been resurrected as taxidermied objects. The series featured here, titled Ordinary Overlooked, explores the alien beauty of dead insects that Owen finds outside or in the corners and windowsills of her house. With a strange alertness and intimacy, the images capture with startling detail the characteristics of each tiny body — such as the hairy legs, segmented antennae, and compound eyes — that otherwise go unnoticed. What was once creepy and “ordinary” becomes familiar and nuanced. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, Owen explains:
The insect world is something the average human rarely pays any close attention to — that is, unless they are invading your home. Something ordinary as a moth, housefly, or ant can easily be overlooked and considered a pest. For me, they have opened my eyes to a tiny new world. […] The more I photograph these insects, the stronger my curiosity grows.
What makes Owen’s images especially uncanny are the states of limbo they portray. Floating in surreal, nocturnal worlds, each insect carries the illusion of life while curled in the postures of death. As manifestations of uncertainty and ephemerality, they are transformed through the camera’s gaze into sentient ghosts, lost in purgatory; “taken in one hair at a time, the images are suspended somewhere between metamorphosis and reincarnation,” Owen writes. The result is a series of contemplative photographs that provide both the time and focus in which to foster respect while exploring the beauty of alternate, living worlds.
Visit Owen’s website to view more of her work, including Trophies, a haunting portraiture series of taxidermied animals who likewise trouble us with the indistinctness between life and death.