I Hunted Butterflies

In May 2023 University of Florida entomologist Akito Kawahara and nearly 90 collaborators published the findings of their massive, eight-year study of butterfly and moth evolution in Nature. greg.org hero Brian Sholis posted a recent article about Kawahara’s research in Smithsonian Magazine. He was inspired by his father, On Kawara:

When Kawahara was 4 years old, his parents noticed that he was scared of insects and would run away from them. To help him overcome this fear, his father started taking him for walks in the parks of suburban Tokyo, looking for insects, talking about insects and carrying a butterfly net. “I still remember the first butterfly I collected,” says Kawahara, his eyes brightening at the memory. “It was near my grandmother’s house. I remember the exact place where the butterfly landed. It was a snout butterfly. I had seen it in books, and now it landed right in front of me. I remember my hands shaking and my dad helping me to catch the butterfly.”

Kawahara still has that specimen in his personal collection in Tokyo, which now numbers between 5,000 and 10,000 and also serves as a remembrance of his father. In his youth, the family divided its time between Tokyo and New York—Kawahara attended schools in both cities—and on weekends, his father would take him on butterfly collecting trips. On Kawara also traveled extensively to create his art and sometimes brought his son along, plus their butterfly equipment. As a boy, Kawahara gathered specimens from Singapore, Hawaii, Alaska, California and all over Japan.

Stickers included in the catalogue for On Kawara: Date Paintings 1981-83…On Sundays, an exhibition at Galerie Watari in Tokyo, via Jonathan A. Hill Booksellers

Kawahara would have been 4 in 1983. The exhibition catalogue for Kawara’s fall 1983 exhibition at Galerie Watari in Tokyo includes a facsimile of his painting journal for the period between 1981-83, and three sheets of date painting stickers, to scale [above], including just five made in June, July, and August 1983.

The One Million Years Foundation, notes bookseller Jonathan A. Hill, no longer recognizes the catalogue as part of the artist’s printed oeuvre. But Kawara’s documentation of date painting production on his 100-year calendar does seem to confirm this number. And so now we see that on the other days of the Summer of 1983, the artist was laying the foundations of a major scientific breakthrough by hunting butterflies with his son.

A global phylogeny of butterflies reveals their evolutionary history, ancestral hosts and biogeographic origins [nature]
Where Did Butterflies Come From? This Scientist Is On the Case [smithsonianmag via brian sholis]
Previously, related: On Kawara Date Painting Stickers
On Kawara Db
Today Job: On Working Late