like gold to airy thinness beat

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On holiday in Corfu , Dave spotted a couple of insect shells  attached to a wall and gave them to me.

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like gold to airy thinness beat

They are the exoskeletons of cicada nymphs which emerge from the earth after 17 years to hatch into winged cicadas, live briefly and die.

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The owner of our villa called them ‘dresses’, and the cleaner told me that the cicadas take these dresses off when they get too hot.

With a forthcoming exhibition already titled ‘Carapace’ in which dresses will be a recurring image, I knew that I would be drawing the cicada moults. I also thought that if I could find enough of them, I  could make a string of lights which would show off their translucency. I found just over 100.

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Once home, I bought some very fine LED lights on copper wire and, using the slit on the back of the shell from which the adult had emerged, fed the lights into the shed skins. They were glued in place and lacquered, and some six, very sticky hours later the string of lights was finished.

 

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The title, ‘Like gold to airy thinness beat’ was suggested by a friend and is taken from the John Donne poem ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’;

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.