'They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.'
Nearly thirty years ago, Andy Warhol had a discussion with art dealer and long-time political and environmental activists, Ronald and Frayda Feldman about beach erosion and several other ecological issues. Inspired by their talk, the Feldmans, whose gallery Ronald Feldman Fine Art, New York was known for supporting innovative art projects and installations, commissioned Warhol to create a portfolio of ten silkscreen prints titled 'Endangered Species.' Warhol, who had a deep fondness and interest in animals, embraced the idea. Selecting a diverse array of magnificently diverse animals from across the globe, Warhol implemented a palette of Day-Glo colors, characteristic of his pop style. Creating a dynamic tension between art and reality, Warhol applies the same vibrancy to his portfolio of animals as he does his most iconic celebrity figures.
Gracefully floating among a sea of radiating scarlets and stark white blades of grass, the nearly camouflaged butterfly of 'Endangered Species: San Francisco Silverspot' is highlighted by strokes of peach and flecks of blue. Now, closer to extinction than when Warhol originally conceived this painting, only two known colonies still exist. More commonly referred to as the Callioppe silverspot, the name refers to the silvery patches of scales on the underside of the wings. Historically, this butterfly inhabited grasslands ranging over much of the northern San Francisco Bay region. The cause of the Callioppe silverspots decline is fairly clear. The vast majority of potential butterfly habitat lies under the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. What open areas remain are dominated by recently introduced plant species, and many are grazed by cattle, mined, or subject to heavy recreational use. The two remaining colonies are now located on private lands that are largely protected from development. Although these numbers now appear to be stable, the species was listed as a federal endangered species in 1997. However, California does not list insects as state endangered species.