Mantra’s Trompe L’oeil Murals Encase Enormous Butterflies in Vintage-Style Boxes

Cancún, Mexico. Image by Gino Caballero

Working with entomologists around the globe, the French street artist known as Mantra (previously) transforms brick facades and concrete walls into massive studies of local butterfly specimens. With framed outer edges that mimic a wooden box, the trompe l’oeil murals render the winged insects in detail, depicting their richly hued scales and delicate antennae. Each artwork features species native to the area, making it possible that a live specimen might flutter by its enormous counterpart.

In a conversation with Colossal, Mantra said he’s harbored a lifelong fascination with entomology that stems from spending hours in French gardens and bucolic areas as a kid. “As a child, I was interested, curious, and focused on the small life forms in those places,” he says. His current practice hearkens back to those carefree hours and connects with an adolescent desire to become a naturalist. “My approach is as a scientist,” the artist says, noting that education about environmental care and issues is part of the goal.

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