Artist Youri Cansell (b. 1987, France), known around the world as Mantra, has completed two larger-than-life butterfly specimen case murals in Little Rock and Bentonville for Arkanvas.
ARkanvas, is a statewide engagement curated and produced by women-led global curator group Justkids and commissioned by Bentonville art organization OZ Art, in partnership with The Unexpected, bringing art experiences by world-renowned artists to diverse Arkansas communities.
Mantra is especially fascinated by entomology, the world of insects. Mining memories of his childhood garden in France, he now paints exquisite murals, often of moths and butterflies, on urban surfaces where these ephemeral beings are seldom seen in the wild.
The first of Mantra’s monumental piece, titled The Nine, is displayed in the heart of Downtown Little Rock, right at the entrance of The River Market, and is visible from miles around.
Spectacularly beautiful and scientifically accurate to the last detail, Mantra’s Trompe l’oeil piece The Nine, renders a selection of the nine most emblematic Arkansas butterflies, including Parhassius, Cupido, Celastrina, and Lycaena, which he depicts as lifeless specimens displayed in a cracked entomology case; a heartbreaking comment on endangered species and lost biodiversities.
With acute sensitivity to his surroundings, Mantra works to create organic relationships between his subjects and their environments.
The Nine is also the artist’s tribute to the historically famous Little Rock Nine, a group of nine courageous black students who enrolled at the formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock in 1957, drawing national attention to the civil rights movement at the time.
Not long after his mural in Little Rock, Mantra completed the second piece in the small town square of booming Bentonville, on the 21C Museum Hotel wall. Mantra painted a giant lime-green coloured winged Luna Moth, found only in North America and very popular in The Natural State.
The artist transformed the multi-story building into a gigantic broken entomology box, masterfully enclosing the collection of insects inside the cracked glass as if to illustrate a potential escape, bringing a colourful and eye-catching slice of nature to the city.
“I have always wanted to find my place in the global society. Painting murals internationally has allowed me to get in touch with various communities, appreciate different cultures, languages and despite the current difficulties connect beyond borders. In turn, I hope to put a smile on peoples ’ faces while they walk by.” MANTRA
OZ Art brings together a network of art, artists, events, and experiences throughout Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas. Founded in 2017 in the hometown of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary, OZ Art supports the regional art scene with its collection displayed throughout Bentonville and by collaborating with regional arts organizations. Exploration is a way of life in Bentonville. OZ Art brings the newest form of adventure and culture that you don’t want to miss.
Photo credit Justkids