Nature Knows No Boundaries

Posted by Elaine Quave
Elaine Quave's artwork butterfly on milkweed sculpture

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, one inspiring story that we can look to is the transcontinental journey of the monarch butterfly.

These butterflies travel from Mexico, across the US, into Canada and back every year. The monarch migration is a truly amazing endangered biological phenomenon. The butterflies that return to Mexico every year are actually the great-grandkids of the ones that left the previous year. Even though several generations have passed they still return to the same area of forest to cluster on the Oyamel fir trees in Mexico.

Butterfly migration The monarch's return coincides with the Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead Festival when the returning souls of lost loved ones are honored in Mexico. Monarch populations have been in a steep decline over the past several years, and scientists believe this is due to deforestation of their overwintering site, decline of the larval host plant milkweed, pesticides, and climate change. Saving the monarch butterfly means multiple countries working together to do things like stopping illegal logging and planting more milkweed. Many people are making great strides inspired by this butterfly to help preserve this wonder of nature for the future.

Work by Elaine QuaveI use monarch butterflies in my artwork because I am inspired by this natural phenomenon, and I am interested in the places where humans and nature collide. As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, connecting to Hispanic culture is a way to connect to a lost heritage and the monarch is a powerful symbol of how nature knows no sociopolitical boundaries. We have to remind ourselves that the lines that divide us are imaginary, and our differences should be celebrated, not used to divide us.




Elaine Quave is a ceramic artist that has been teaching ceramics and art history at the Governor's School since 2012. She is also an alum of the school's inaugural graduating class. Quave's work, which focuses on environmental themes, has been featured in Ceramics Monthly Magazine and in exhibitions held by the Clay Center of New Orleans, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts, Greenville Center for Creative Arts and Blue Spiral 1. 

In 2016, Quave developed and directed the South Carolina Butterfly Collaborative through the SCGSAH Office of Outreach. She worked with over 2,000 fifth-grade students to explore the idea of community art as a means of drawing attention to a significant social concern–the endangered migration patterns of the North American Monarch Butterfly.