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“One afternoon while sitting in the white-washed stone,  restored barn gallery where I had a show a few years ago, I became mesmerized by the efforts of a moth fluttering persistently against a window in its attempt to follow the light. The poignancy of that struggle touched me deeply, as it has so many times before, and I knew that I was going to have to pay painterly tribute to these amazingly beautiful creatures.For the next year my search for moths and butterflies was a sad one as they are so rare. I live in the countryside in Basse Normandie, France. So do many farmers, some of whom use tried and true organic farming methods, but many of whom rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and plant genetically modified crops which have all but wiped out the moths and butterflies. I’ve talked to a lot of the old people in the area who mourn the loss of this population which, due to the incredible natural fertility and the relatively mild climate of this region resulting in abundant plant life, used to be strong.

As I worked on this series in honor of moths and butterflies, all that they symbolize expanded and became more and more appropriate for our time which has presented so much that is so threatening on every level. In the paintings they often fly over the flat, mono-culture fields which, although quite beautiful, are the bane of their existence.

On another level, there are the myths and tribal beliefs, such as the soul taking on the form of a butterfly as it leaves the body, and what they represent psychologically: balance, transformation, the psyche itself. The exploration of how to represent these fascinating insects has only begun, for me. Their elusive, quick-silver ways are almost impossible to do justice to.”


Zoe Viles is an artist who lives in France, formerly Santa Fe New Mexico.  She has graciously sent us 9 paintings of butterflies and moths to post as Dispatch #49 here on our site.Images are copyrighted and she will be selling a greeting card line of some of these images . If anyone is interested in the originals or cards they can contact her directly at!

One thought on “#49: Rhopalocera (butterfly and moth) paintings by Zoe Viles”

  1. Dear Alex,
    I’ve been meaning to write to you for ages, but after my mom died, I’ve been selling the house in France and getting settled back in Santa Fe after a brief stay on Cape Ann. Just checking in this a.m. to see if the butterfly pieces were still posted and am pleased to see that they are. I like the new format, but maybe you could change the contact info to :
    It’s great being back in this amazing place, seeing old friends and haunts. I’m slowly getting back to work and am beginning a series of portraits of creatures,( mammal, reptile, insect), most of which are endangered. I’ll send photos when they are done.
    Had a wonderful dream visit with you last night. When I awoke, I was about to drive you up to Los Alamos to give a talk…..Good to see an old friend. There was a lot of laughter.
    Do you ever get down here? If so, I’d love to visit with you. Hope you and your family are faring well.
    All the best,

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