Two 7-feet-tall ant sculptures were welcomed to the University of Florida on July 7, 2015. These giant ants named “X” and “O” are bronze sculptures made by American artist Susan P. Cochran. Their names come from the way many people sign letters: XO, meaning hugs and kisses. The title emphasizes the communication between the ants.
Cochran hopes to change the often-negative perception of bugs through her sculptures by making the ants friendly and interactive. Cochran invites people to sit, climb and play on the ants. There were originally 13 ants in Cochran’s colony collection, but the colony has gotten smaller as the ants have been sent across the world to be on display. Some of her ants have been exhibited in Copenhagen, Dubai, New York, California and Florida.
When asked why she made the sculpture interactive, Cochran said “because grown-ups don’t get to play. Children get to play all the time. Grown-ups walk around all po-faced.”
Cochran hopes to evoke the viewer’s inner child by allowing them to play on the ants and rediscover the bug world in a new light. Cochran likes bugs, and she hopes that people who see these sculptures will come to appreciate them. She began working on bronze sculptures when her eyesight began to fade since she could no longer do beadwork. Cochran admired the resilience of bronze sculptures from ancient Greece and decided to begin making them.
“They [bronze sculptures] really last,” said Cochran. “Maybe someone in the year 5000 will look at them and say, ‘Wow! Wonder who did those?’ Or, ‘Ick, it’s an ant!’ Or, ‘What is that?’”
Cochran’s ants, which are on loan from the artist, will be displayed outside the Florida Museum of Natural History for a year. This public art installation is presented through Creative B, an interdisciplinary arts program at the University of Florida that takes place during the summer b semester.
Cochran said she is excited that her ants are on display at the University of Florida for such a large student body. “They [the students at UF] are young,” said Cochran. “A lot of them don’t like bugs, and seeing as I made mine friendly maybe it’ll change their viewpoint.”