“Summer Bliss,” part of Truong Tran’s exhibit “Or I Meant to Say Please Pass The Sugar,” which uses 9,000 butterflies, hand-cut from pornographic magazines. (Photo by Daniel Lichtenberg)

You can make art with butterflies, says one San Francisco artist, but you needn’t kill them to do it.

Rather than kill 9,000 butterflies, as British artist Damien Hirst famously did for his piece “In and Out of Love,” Truong Tran created 9,000 butterflies of his own.

His medium? Old pornography and nature magazines.

In 1p991, Hirst created “In and Out of Love,” which the Guardian called “distressing but weirdly uplifting,” by gluing butterfly pupae to large white canvasses. Hirst provided food and sugar water for them, and the butterflies would hatch, mate and eventually die. Museum staff would then dispose of them.

It was Hirst’s first London solo exhibition, one he reprised in a 2012 retrospective at the Tate Modern in London.

Tran’s 19 works of paper butterflies comprise his first solo exhibition, too. The artist said he was deliberately exploring themes of desire and cultural appropriation. Normally, Tran would be considered the minority, and therefore a member of the group whose culture would be the subject of appropriation. But’s he’s flipped that scenario with “Or I Meant to Say, Please Pass the Sugar.”

“I just thought Hirst’s gesture was really obscene,” Tran told SFGate. “I wanted to respond to his obscenity with an obscenity.”

The full title of Tran’s exhibition is, “Or I Know You Are But What Am I Or The Fleecing of Americana Or 9000 Butterflies for Damien Hirst Or I’d Rather Do This and Call It Art Or What You’ve Heard Is True Or And Away We Go Or The Miseducation Of Gnourt Nart Or It’s Complicated Or I Meant to Say Please Pass The Sugar.”

Tran’s work will remain on exhibition at the Telegraph Hill Gallery in San Francisco through March 28.

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