Bennie Flores Ansell created a unique photographic installation titled I 2K- Imelda 2000, after the show’s largest work, a huge swarm of 2000 shoe-butterflies. Ansell photographed the most outrageous, colorful, exotic, and torturous sets of high-heeled shoes that she could find. The shoes were placed directly on a scanner for maximum, if flattened, realistic rendering on transparent plastic.
The resulting butterfly-image pairs of shoes reproduced on the ink jet transparency film were then painstakingly cut out and bent so that they appear to possess wings, now helplessly pinned down by the merciless observer-collector.
In tongue-in-cheek style, this series was inspired by the now infamous collection of shoes amassed by Imelda Marcos, the “Steel Butterfly.” In the installation, Ansell placed one of her butterflies on the wall for every pair of shoes Imelda owns. Here the sheer excess was breathtaking and conveyed in the most literal, yet fanciful, way possible the decadent horrors of the Philippine First Lady’s abuses of her own people. The shoe collection of Imelda Marcos represented an absurd and puzzling aspect of her identity, that also became highly associated with the Filipino collective identity and Bennie Ansell’s identity as a Filipino American.
Ansell’s Collection series consisted of pairs of shoes that were initially seen as natural butterflies. Upon further examination, they became morphed back to man-made footwear that created this illusion. Butterflies became Ansell’s signature symbol, shown in authoritative wooden collectors’ boxes with proper round-headed pins, in orderly rows with zoological text, or in sweeping artificial swarms and collecting jars of the biologist’s lab and the natural history museum.