The giant ants on display in front of the Florida Museum of Natural History won’t be crawling away anytime soon.
“X” and “O,” the pair of bronze ant sculptures that stand in the Cultural Plaza, have been on loan from artist Susan P. Cochran for a year. Initially their stay was coming to a close, but Cochran has graciously extended the sculptures’ visit for another year.
Cochran is an American artist who has received international acclaim for her large-scale cast bronze sculptures of ants, earwigs and warriors as well as her life-size interpretation of flora and fauna. Her ants have traveled to Dubai, Chicago, Las Vegas and beyond before these ants left their queen to visit the Gator Nation in July 2015.
“I'm delighted with the positive response by the Gator Nation,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s new “Atlas Ant” and others were recently on display at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in Palm Beach.
The artist shared concern on the care of her work, and the University of Florida College of the Arts urges the public not to climb on the sculptures as a safety precaution.
Andrea Lucky, professor in entomology and nematology, said that she and her colleagues see “X” and “O” every day.
“We often direct our students to consider them from a biological perspective as well as from a science outreach point of view,” Lucky said. “Their magnetism is strong for kids and adults alike. They are a powerful and delightful example of how the marriage of art and science can speak to everyone.”
In preparation of their extended stay, University Gallery Manager Bryan Yeager and Preparator Adam Germann cleaned and polished the sculptures the morning of July 26.
The two dried off the sculptures and dusted off any grass and dirt. Then they rubbed shoe polish on the ants and buffed it out to polish the giant insects.
Director of the Florida Museum of Natural History Doug Jones said having the ants has been unbelievable.
“We never could have imagined how popular these wonderful pieces have been with our visitors who interact with these two monumental sculptures in many ways,” Jones said. “They are the most photographed and recognized objects at the museum these days, and I wish they would stay here forever.”
Viewers of “X” and “O” are encouraged to join in the conversation by using the hashtag #giantantsUF.
The sculptures are made available by the Art On Campus Program of the University of Florida College of the Arts.
“These sculptures have captured the imagination of our students and the greater campus community,” Dean Lucinda Lavelli said. “This is just another way art can spark connections between inquiry and learning, between art and science. We are grateful to Susan Cochran for sharing ‘X’ and ‘O’ with so many.”