Press RoomMixed-reality installation at Phoenix Art Museum traces migration of endangered Monarch butterfly

Mixed-reality installation at Phoenix Art Museum traces migration of endangered Monarch butterfly

Mar, 15, 2023

Latin American ArtSpecial Installations

Mixed-reality installation at Phoenix Art Museum traces migration of endangered Monarch butterfly

Methuselah (2022) by Reynier Leyva Novo virtually reproduces butterfly’s 6,000-mile transnational flight as an exploration of 21st-century human migration and impending climate crisis

Image credit: Reynier Leyva Novo, Methuselah, 2021-2022. Digital artwork. Courtesy of the artist.

PHOENIX (March 15, 2023) – This spring, Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) presents Methuselah (2022) by Cuban artist Reynier Leyva Novo, a digital artwork that follows a butterfly avatar along its journey from southern Canada, across the United States, into Mexico, and back again as part of the species’ annual reproductive cycle. On-site visitors will experience the Monarch’s movements and behaviors in a shared environment using a holographic device. Additionally, Methuselah is hosted and reproduced in real-time on a dedicated website so that users across the world with internet access can experience the work at any time. The mixed-reality installation at PhxArt will be on view beginning May 6 in the Museum’s Katz Wing for Modern Art. It is presented in conjunction with Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, the first retrospective since 1992 to explore the career of the late Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso.

Monarch butterflies weigh less than one gram each and live only two to six weeks, requiring four generations of offspring to complete their annual migration. Methuselah refers to the fourth generation of Monarchs who are born at the northern most point of the migration pattern and live longer than the other generations. In late summer and fall, the Methuselah generation begins a two-month, 6,000-mile journey from southern Canada and the northern United States to Mexico, where they stop to hibernate in the remote oyamel fir forests. In February and March, they awaken and begin the return home, laying millions of eggs along the way before dying.

Methuselah (2022) was created by Cuban artist Reynier Leyva Novo in collaboration with butterfly experts, taxidermists, animators, computer modelers, and software designers, translating an analog specimen into a digital animation, or virtual avatar. The open-distribution model of the artwork, which allows for observation 24 hours a day, draws upon data points related to actual conditions the Monarch experiences during migration, including inclement weather and rough terrain. Any person with an internet connection can access the work via, helping to eliminate social, cultural, geographic, and economic barriers. The artwork can also be individually accessed on mobile devices via a free app on the App Store. Through a mixed-reality installation at PhxArt in May, on-site visitors will be afforded an intimate experience with the elegant Monarch via a holographic device as it continues along its migratory path.

At Phoenix Art Museum, Methuselah is presented in conjunction with the major exhibition Juan Francisco Elso: Por América and the complementary exhibition Lo que es, es lo que ha sido/What It Is, Is What Has Been: Selections from the ASU Art Museum’s Cuban Art Collection, both of which are curated by Olga Viso, curator-at-large at PhxArt and senior advisor at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, in collaboration with Susanna V. Temkin, curator at El Museo del Barrio, and Julio César Morales, executive director and co-chief curator of MoCA Tucson, respectively. In September 2022, the Museum was part of a group of nearly 20 international cultural organizations that came together to support the launch of Methuselah, among them the Americas Society, ​New York​; Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada; Ballroom Marfa, Texas; High Museum of Art, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; International Center for the Arts of the Americas / Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Museo Jumex, Mexico; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, MUAC, UNAM, Mexico; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Florida; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri; New York Botanical Garden, New York; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; and Seattle Art Museum, Washington.

This summer, Methuselah will also be accessible at other Valley venues, including at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, where ASU students and museum visitors can experience Methuselah in a mixed-reality setting in the Museum’s Artists’ Workshop space; the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience Center (MIX) in Mesa, which will live stream Methuselah’s flight path north on its 80-foot exterior jumbo screen; and Desert Botanical Garden, which will host a public conversation with artist Reynier Leyva Novo and Garden pollinator experts, followed by a tour of the Garden’s renowned Cohn Family Butterfly Pavilion. Each institution will release more programming information as it becomes available.

“The soft diplomacy of the Monarch, as well as its perseverance, offers a critical metaphor for 21st-century existence related both to migration and our impending climate crisis,” said Viso. “That Novo created this work during his own migration out of Cuba and that the Monarch was recently categorized as an endangered species makes it all the more poignant. This interest and exploration of transnationalism and the fragility of existence pays tribute to Juan Francisco Elso’s own fascination with those topics, demonstrating how Elso’s influence on new generations of Cuban artists such as Novo lives on.”

About the Installation
Methuselah is commissioned by El Museo del Barrio through the generous support of VIA Art Fund. The project is presented in relation to the exhibition Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, which is organized by El Museo del Barrio and made possible thanks to major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The presentation of Juan Francisco Elso: Por América at Phoenix Art Museum is made possible through the generosity of Partner Sponsor Sue and Bud Selig and Supporting Sponsors Men’s Arts Council, The Opatrny Family Foundation, and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Exhibition Endowment Fund, with additional support from Kimpton Hotel Palomar.

Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged 5 and younger; and Maricopa County Community Colleges students. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public. Visitors may also enjoy reduced admission to the exhibition during voluntary-donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and supported in part through the generosity of the Angela and Leonard Singer Endowment for Performing Arts. For a full breakdown of general-admission prices and hours, see

High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or

About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

About El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio is the nation’s leading Latinx and Latin American cultural institution. The Museum welcomes visitors of all backgrounds to discover the artistic landscape of these communities through its extensive Permanent Collection, varied exhibitions and publications, bilingual public programs, educational activities, festivals, and special events.

The Museum is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street in New York City. The Museum is open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00am – 5:00pm. Pay-what-you-wish. To connect with El Museo via Social Media, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more information, please visit

About Reynier Leyva Novo
Reynier Leyva Novo (b. 1983, Havana, Cuba, and based in Houston, Texas) is one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists. Novo’s practice challenges ideology and symbols of power, challenging notions of an individual’s ability to affect change. His multidisciplinary practice includes mining historical data and official documents, the content of which he transforms into formally minimalist and conceptually charged sculptures and multimedia installations. Novo’s artwork has been presented at the Liverpool Biennial (2010), Venice Biennale (2011, 2017), Havana Biennial (2015, 2019), Shanghai Biennale (2018), Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (2019), Aichi Triennial (2019), among others. His art is collected by international museums and arts institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Bronx Museum of Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Museo de Bellas Artes de Habana; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among others.

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