Joianne Bittle Knight presents the fourth painting in her Royal Family series, alongside a large, meticulously rendered graphite drawing. Both works, which feature exquisitely detailed portraits of a Southeast Asian jewel beetle, are the result of six years of ongoing observation of beetle specimens. The painting, which employs multiple layers of over-painting and sanding to create a rich, luminous surface, is composed over three canvases and arranged like an altarpiece. Coupled with Bittle Knight’s flat, gold background, these panels effectively reference religious icons of the Byzantine and Renaissance periods as well as totems from ancient Egypt.
At the same time, the artist is interested in the contemporary context of her subject matter as well. Noting that beetles, while often feared in North America, are used to make jewelry and other art objects in Malaysia and Thailand, Bittle Knight intends for her reverential treatment of the beetle to allude to the insect’s associations with divinity and royalty in other parts of the world. In this way, she mines the complex architecture of the insect’s anatomy to examine cultural perceptions of beauty and unfamiliarity, and to reveal the vulnerability and dignity of the jewel beetle itself.
This is Joianne Bittle Knight’s first solo exhibition. In fall 2006, she showed her Royal Family paintings in a two-person exhibition, Bioluminescence: Joianne Bittle Knight and Charles Ritchie, at Akus Gallery in Willimantic, CT. She has participated in several group shows, including Winter Exhibition, Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venice, Italy; Art Handlers, Christie’s, New York, NY; BFA Thesis Show, School of Fine Arts Gallery, H.R. Hope School of Fine Arts, Bloomington, IN; and Annual Juried Exhibition, Waldron Arts Center, Bloomington, IN. Bittle Knight earned her BFA at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
The Sunroom Project Space is an opportunity for New York area emerging artists to develop a special project or create a new body of work to exhibit in a solo show. Five artists were chosen in 2007: Joianne Bittle Knight, Pedro Cruz-Castro, Jeff Feddersen, Peter Gerakaris, and Margie Neuhaus.