Bennie Flores Ansell has created a unique photographic installation titled I 2K- Imelda 2000, after the show’s largest work, a huge swarm of 2000 shoe-butterflies. Ansell has photographed the most outrageous, colorful, exotic, and torturous sets of high-heeled shoes that she can find. The shoes have been 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 are 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 has been inspired by the now infamous collection of shoes amassed by Imelda Marcos, the “Steel Butterfly.” In the installation, Ansell places one of her butterflies on the wall for every pair of shoes Imelda owns. Here the sheer excess is breathtaking and conveys 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 represents an absurd and puzzling aspect of her identity, that has also become highly associated with the Filipino collective identity and Bennie Ansell’s identity as a Filipino American.
Ansell’s Collection series consists of pairs of shoes that are initially seen as natural butterflies. Upon further examination, they become morphed back to man-made footwear that creates this illusion. Butterflies have become Ansell’s signature symbol, shown in authoritative wooden collectors’ boxes with proper round-headed pins, in orderly rows of the zoological text, or in sweeping artificial swarms and collecting jars of the biologist’s lab and the natural history museum.