In Conversation: Catherine Chalmers, Barrett Klein and Oliver Milman

Join us for an in-person discussion at The Drawing Center focusing on the intersection of science, nature and culture, presented on the occasion of Catherine Chalmers' exhibition We Rule. In We Rule, Chalmers created a site-specific drawing installation in The Drawing Center’s lower-level gallery and corridor that depicts the underground labyrinth of an ant colony inspired by her observation of, and engagement with more than one dozen colonies of leafcutter ants on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

For Chalmers, leafcutter ants are metaphors for humanity’s life on earth: they farm, communicate, and collaborate; they also colonize, battle, and destroy. Yet the drawings in We Rule highlight a significant way that the insects diverge from humans—as an integrated part of their ecosystem, the ants carry out their actions in harmony with the earth.

Chalmers will be joined in conversation by Oliver Milman, environmental correspondent at The Guardian US, and scientist Barrett Klein.


Catherine Chalmers is a Guggenheim Fellow, holds a B.S. Engineering, Stanford University and an M.F.A. Painting, Royal College of Art, London. She has exhibited her artwork widely, including MoMA P.S.1; MassMoca; Kunsthalle Vienna. Two books have been published by Aperture on her work: FOOD CHAIN and AMERICAN COCKROACH. Her video Leafcutters won Best Environmental Short at the 2018 Natourale Film Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany and in 2019 it won the Gil Omenn Art & Science Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She lives in New York City.

Barrett Klein is an entomologist based at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, where he studies the sleep of social insects, explores the connections between science and art, and creates entomo-art -- sometimes collaborating with his eusocial subjects. Barrett used to create exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History and still dreams that he is fabricating faux insects for dioramas. He is writing a book about cultural entomology for Timber Press, and ants -- and Catherine Chalmers' brilliant art-- will certainly play a role in this effort.

Oliver Milman is the environment correspondent at The Guardian US. He has first-hand experience of the world's environmental crises, covering the vanishing ice of Arctic Alaska, the charred remains of towns immolated in California and the roofless, abandoned communities of hurricane-hit Puerto Rico. He helped launch the Guardian's operation in Australia, charting the tightening grip of climate change upon cities, farmers, and the natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef. His writing on the environment, business, and the media industry has appeared in numerous publications, including The Age in Australia and The Ecologist and New Internationalist in his native UK. THE INSECT CRISIS: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World, was published by W. W. Norton in the US and Atlantic Books in the UK.