Let it be
Precious memories with decay
They’re somewhere close to my lonely soul
They linger, ever near me
Let it be
Precious memories with decay
They ever flood my lonely soul
The broken cocoon transforms into a butterfly
Let it be
Precious memories with decay
Fly across the lonely years reflecting the past
A fond memory appears
Let it be
Precious memories with decay
As I travel on life’s new pathway soon
Knowing not what the next years may hold
Precious memories always flood my soul
This body of work arose from the video “How to Raise a Caterpillar to a Butterfly’’. I first considered the real process about them. According to research, what follow are quotes from some websites that show the process:
“Usually, the process from egg to the caterpillar instar takes about 10 -14 days, depending on conditions. ”
“the caterpillar start that changing color or seems lethargic, he’s likely about to molt or form their pupa. They are very vulnerable during this period, so do not touch them or otherwise mess with their environment.”
“When the caterpillar is ready to go chrysalis, it hangs vertically and forms a j-shape. limply, it will begin its transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis. The chrysalis remains for 10 – 14 days. When it’s ready to become a butterfly, the green chrysalis will turn opaque, then dark, then black, then clear. You can see the gorgeous orange-and-black coloration of the butterfly. When the butterfly first hatches, its wings are soft and malleable. The butterfly needs to hang vertically so its wings can take shape and firm up. After about two hours, the butterfly’s wings have dropped completely and are fully formed, ready for first flight. When you see the butterfly start to beat its wings slowly, as if it’s revving up its engines, its time to take her outside and send her on her way.” What I discovered is that this unbelievable strength from vulnerable egg to caterpillar then forms a chrysalis and finally breaks and gets rid of the cocoon in order to turn into a butterfly. In other words, this process is just like the one I had experienced from when I was first the egg in my mother’s belly, to when I was a baby, and then developed into a child, growing up step by step, up to the present when I finally look like a butterfly now preparing to rev up my engines in order to make my first flight in this new stage of life and into a brand new field.
I made a cocoon with wire and fiber. They represent my shell, a shell that loves and protects me from all my family. One’s own ascension is like the transmutation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, slowly revealing what has been there all along in this gradual transmutation. When I was ignorant of it here six years ago, it was because I was protected too well. I recently read an article, written by an author who was also a teacher. He described that earlier cocoon as our “habitual shell”. Rhee, Stephanie Lyu wrote that “teaching connotes more than disseminating knowledge. Teaching opens up students’ habitual cocoons and exposes them to new ideas and ways of thinking so that students are encouraged to question and challenge their established assumptions, knowledge, values, and/or beliefs”. Rhee thinks of this process as metamorphosis. The same concept as how Chinese parents over-protect children because they believe that they need to take care of everything for their children. I also believe that such a phenomenon occurs in our children in China. All the parents and children have already made “protection” habitual. Rhee (the teacher-author), tried to keep a balancing act between teaching and learning to break the habitual shell, but it is an interactive relationship between students and teachers. Just as we take care of everything through the family, so too, that family cannot do everything. I have already tried to break through my cocoon, and I also hope that every child can break this habitual shell. Of course, it also needs an interactive effort between children and parents. I really agree with Rhee’s concept of the habitual shell. Many things don’t really have to be done, but we believe that they do, and yet that thinking is just a sign of our habitual shell. This kind of habit sometimes from being influenced by others, and sometimes one feels that one is forced to accept this level of protectiveness. However, we can also break through that habitual shell. I have been working hard to break this layer of protection. Today, I did it.
As for the grids in my installation, as I wrote earlier in this paper, they come from the calendar that is the time-space location in which where my memory is stored. Additionally, the grids are also a design factor. Because of their appearance, the views will look more stereoscopic and more intentionally designed; they also make the composition more beautiful.
In this installation, butterflies are my most important element. Each photo on the butterfly represents every memory of my past life. There are probably thousands of “butterflies.” These butterflies have the same shape but the contents are quite different because their contents are randomly cut by the machine; some only show the head, some only show the eyes, and some only have the outer contour. Interestingly, through random cutting, I found many valuable butterflies which magically displayed two wings. To me, they are my two grandmothers, one a Chinese and the other, American. There are many photos like this, but this one is the most outstanding. It is easy to see that I am an international student who has accepted cross-culturalism. This most outstanding butterfly also also cleverly cut out two magical balances.
Some butterfly content has been cropped, and only the five senses of the face are in the middle. This image looks very consistent, I will save these valuable randomly-cut butterflies, because they are so interesting and special to me. Additionally, no matter how randomly they have been cut, I can still identify them at a glance. They have the same shape, although different content that makes them seem as if they have different personalities. Some are introverted, some are lively, some are simple, some are complicated. Of course, there are many repetitive shapes and photos. Their repetition is like my memory. Some memories are gone, but the people in these memories are still by my side, such as my MFA classmates and teachers. We all have much to remember together, and even though these have become “just” memories, I still “see” them every day. But some memories will disappear, perhaps forever, such as my grandfather. He has disappeared into my memory forever, and has already become a little vague, and may even be finally forgotten in the future. In the installation, I also expressed the memory of living and dying. The dense space is like all the memories that still flood every day, just like you can see them every day. The empty space is like the memory of death. I will never recall this person from memory. According to Carrillo-Mora, Paul: “According to recent evidence, memory can be conceptualized as a series of subsystems working together to reach the same final goal. This division separates memory in two categories: declarative and not declarative, often conceptualized also as explicit and implicit memories, respectively” I really resonate with this statement. Implicit memory, usually formed by repeated accumulation and accumulation, is the result of a kind of habit practiced over time, such has been the case with my family. We “meet” each other “repeatedly” to “achieve accumulation.” So too, I express them through the repetition of many butterflies. With explicit memory, this process of remembering and recalling past experiences and information requires participation in awareness activities, often with the help of language descriptions. Carrillo-Mora, Paul suggests that “explicit memory” is composed of “declarative memory and episodic memory” in the following statement: “Declarative memory, as indicated by its name, includes a variety of memories implicating information that can be verbalized and effectively transmitted from person to person”. For example, we remember the name and face of a new friend, only by conscious effort; when we see him again next time, [we] must remember it with conscious memories. Carillo-Mora wrote that: “The second sub-category is episodic memory, which refers to the memory for personal experienced events, or the memory used for what? where? and when?”
Just as in my artwork, I can only recall my memory through a certain building or certain stuff. For example, the breakfast I first had when I first came to the United States six years ago, is forgotten. But when I saw the photo on the butterfly, I do remember that I was buying it at the airport in New York while I was waiting for a flight transfer.
On the aspect of installation and how I cut them, all express the fullness and blankness of this memory. For a single butterfly, that’s still the case. There are some characters, food, and scenery embedded (through memory) in every butterfly. But some gaps have nothing, they are gaps that are just like the blank of memory. No-one’s memory is all recalled; some memories rest in the gap.
During critique, many people asked me why my butterfly is black and white instead of in color. For me, the black and white butterfly is like the memories of the past. Representing them in black and white is actually very nostalgic. Memory and colors do, however, suggest nostalgic emotions. According to Oba, K., Noriuchi, M., Atomi, T., Moriguchi, Y., & Kikuchi, Y. “People sometimes experience an emotional state known as ‘nostalgia’, which involves experiencing predominantly positive emotions while remembering autobiographical events. Nostalgia is thought to play an important role in psychological resilience”. Moreover they have some data which “examined the factors constituting nostalgia and their neural correlates. We confirmed the presence of nostalgia-related activity in both memory and reward systems, including the hippocampus (HPC), substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), and ventral striatum (VS). We also found significant HPC-VS co-activation, with its strength correlating with individual ‘nostalgia tendencies’. Factor analyses showed that two dimensions underlie nostalgia: emotional and personal significance and chronological remoteness, with the former correlating with caudal SN/VTA and left anterior HPC activity, and the latter correlating with rostral SN/VTA activity. ” These findings demonstrate the cooperative activity of memory and reward systems, that is, that our memories will produce nostalgic emotions. Of course, white and black colors function also as deep metaphors to express this decay, because for me these memories on the butterfly have already passed. The color enables me to feel nostalgic emotions. The same seems to apply to black and white films, Black and white films are rarely seen today, and have almost been completely replaced by color film. But the black and white film is always a classic worthy of our nostalgia. Just like our memories, some have already happened and passed, but there remain some classic moments that we will never forget and which are worthy of our nostalgia. Some examples in my own life include the moment when my grandfather passed away, the moment I graduated, and the moment I learned a new skill. According to Wilson, Robert N. study6] ” Today’s controversy about the practice of adding color to originally black-and-white films pivots on the confiict between aesthetic integrity and financial gain and in the process evokes vital traditional issues in the sociology of art. The debate arises from two sources: the relatively recent avail- ability of a technology that makes coloring possible and, although not cheap, economically feasible and color films are much more popular with audiences ; They argue further that the integrity of the classic is preserved. ” During watching these process, some viewpoint also led me introspection “The noted director, John Huston, is quoted as describ- ing colorization thus: “As great an impertinence as for someone to wash fiesh tones on a da Vinci drawing.” Woody Allen uses a stronger term than “impertinence,” calling it “mutilation,” and a coalition of British film directors complains that coloring is “vulgarization.” There has now developed a fiood of angry protest from the makers of black-and-white films who believe strongly that coloring mars the artistic integrity of their work. ’’ As an artist, I will make works in the future. Will I innovate through classic paintings, or will what I create become a kind of destruction? Or will even that be an innovation？However, I also very agree on one viewpoint, namely, that “In a more general sense, both filmmakers and members of the audience may react as if their memories had been violated by coloring.” I feel the “violation” regarding the use of coloring, and remember that some of my audience also asked me about why the black and white butterfly and that in their memory, a butterfly should live in bright flowers, and that it, too, is colorful, but that my work represents the butterfly in black and white. Having read the foregoing research, I know that to those viewers, it is a predictable reaction because their memories have been violated by coloring. I tried to change that, even if a butterfly is colorful, but memory has become decayed. Some people also asked why I folded the largest butterflies when they were installed, why I folded them white, and why I have black butterflies around them. In explanation, I wanted to have a metaphor and a contrast, the surrounding black representing the big environment that came to the United States at that time. The big white butterfly is now, the present. This is, to me exactly how my growing up appears. The contrast is one of the binary oppositions.
For the audiences who saw my work, I observed that they were classified into two categories. One is the kind of person I know, that is, the person who has a common memory. When these viewers saw my work, they were excited to find themselves in that work, and if not themselves, other people associated with them. For example, my teacher Molly, “found” her daughter here; my friendly family in The United States, saw a photo of them with my parents two years ago and so on. Another type of audience, who we don’t know at all, show through the incomplete pictures on the butterfly while watching. They may be wondering what they are identifying in this? Who is this installation? They may wonder about where the artist took the photo, when it was taken. They may also wonder about the memory itself as captured in the installation. Some viewers have identified a building or a landscape and share that with me. For example, included was a photo of my parents and I was in front of Cloud Gate in Chicago. A member of the audience recognized Cloud Gate because it is a very famous attraction for Americans. He shared with me what he was like when he went to Cloud Gate a few years ago. I also shared my story with him. I am very excited because unconsciously my work also drives the audience to think about her memories.
Chandran, H. (2017, October 28). Retrieved April 27, 2019,
Elliott, P. (2019, March 29). How to Raise Butterflies.
Maeckle, M. (2018, August 20). Part One: How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home.
Rhee, S. L. (2016). A Caterpillar Morphs Into a Butterfly. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 22(3), 18–21.
Carrillo-Mora, P. (2010). Sistemas de memoria: reseña histórica, clasificación y conceptos actuales. Segunda parte: Sistemas de memoria de largo plazo: Memoria episódica, sistemas de memoria no declarativa y memoria de trabajo. Salud Mental, 33(2), 197–205.
Oba, K., Noriuchi, M., Atomi, T., Moriguchi, Y., & Kikuchi, Y. (2016). Memory and reward systems coproduce “nostalgic” experiences in the brain. Social Cognitive And Affective Neuroscience, 11(7), 1069–1077.
Wilson, R. N. (1987). Green and Other Colors. Society, 24(4), 21–23.
The installation for this thesis exhibition was created to describe and keep my precious memories with decay and keep my precious memories alive. I used this installation as a way to enable me to recall memory, because memory also decays. In the Thesis Proposal, I stated that the successful shows broke the shell of myself in order to express precious memories with decay. My goals were: to create something aesthetically interesting and unique; to try new resources, tools, and techniques; to create something well-crafted with care taken into the design; to find the courage to express self-growing up, to retrieve memory that was broken and to expresses and symbolize myself and my experiences; another goal was to find the courage to create on a more personal level rather than the historical. Now, I think of all that I have done! This body of work was created in the hopes that my audience would stop, look, and consider what is in our precious memories with decay. Finally, this work is also a kind of sustenance for the new journeys I will have in the future! I (now) believe that I can fly free with and because of my precious memories.