Mike Libby and His Souped-Up Beetles

(Mike Libby).jpgHave you ever wanted a souped-up beetle? No, not the Volkswagen variety. We’re talking about insects (order Coleoptera, for all you Linnaeus fans out there). Artist Mike Libby has made a specialty out of “customizing” real (dead) insects with antique watch parts and mechanical components, offering one-of-a-kind pieces through his Insect Lab. Libby calls his works, which are presented in black shadow boxes or beneath glass domes, a “celebration of natural and manmade function.”

the new weird.jpgOver at our brother blog, GalleyCat, Ron Hogan spotted a Libby bug on the cover of The New Weird, a just-published book of writing in a new hybrid fantasy/sci-fi/horror genre. “We all wanted a clean, modern look, but also to convey the idea of something fantastical, bizarre, and intriguing,” notes Jeff VanderMeer, who edited the book with his wife, Ann. “When I saw Mike Libby’s work at the Insect Lab, it seemed to fit perfectly, and [graphic designer] Ann Monn created a great cover using it.”

And the fun doesn’t stop with beetles. Libby also tinkers with dead arachnids, bees, dragonflies, and wasps. Our personal favorites (and here we reveal our longtime obsession with/affinity for Vladimir Nabokov) are the butterflies, to which Libby adds brass and steel gears, springs, and even LEDs. What’s the toughest part of insect customization? According to the artist, “Making sure the legs don’t fall off and the wings don’t break!”