Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Lucrecia Novoa Recreates Stunning Creatures and Characters

Posted in People on June 23 2015, by Miriam Flores

Miriam Flores is an intern with the Exhibitions Program of The New York Botanical Garden.

Monarch butterflies in action! (Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)
Monarch butterflies in action! (Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)

Lucrecia Novoa is a Chilean-born artist and cultural educator who is physically as well as spiritually involved with her mask and puppet creations. With years of experience, Lucrecia dedicates herself to researching the historic inspirations for each puppet she creates in her Riverdale studio.

Lucrecia has joined NYBG during past exhibitions such as the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, when the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden was transformed into an enchanted land inhabited by magical creatures. For FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life, she presents two giant monarch butterflies that introduce and welcome the exhibition.

(Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)
(Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)

But why did Lucrecia choose the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as a theme for her puppets? The monarchs are among the largest and most beautiful butterflies in North America. With their distinct orange, black, and white wings, they are easily recognized. Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies migrate to Southern California and the high mountains of Central Mexico, where it is warm year-round. In the spring, the monarchs return to their northern breeding areas to start the cycle of life anew.

Adult monarchs live for only three to four weeks. However, a special generation of monarch, the Methuselah generation, is born once a year at the end of the summer. This generation will not breed in the north. Instead, the butterflies store up nectar from flowers and use this as fuel to migrate south for the winter. The nine-month lifespan of the Methuselah monarchs allows them to overwinter in the warmer climate and survive to return north in spring, breeding to restart the cycle. Because of this, the monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration, similar to birds.

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For Lucrecia, the process of creating a character is very important, from the beginning to the end. First, she investigates the nature of the puppet and what it symbolizes. She then draws a sketch that defines the puppet’s measurements. She looks for different materials, colors, and textures to give the illusion of a real butterfly. For the monarch, Lucrecia spent hours studying the nature of butterfly wings and how to recreate their delicacy, softness, and elegance. Everything has been handmade using a variety of materials, including wire and wool for the body; sponge and painted fabric came together to create the legs.

The Monarch taking some nectar. (Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)
The Monarch taking some nectar. (Photo Credit: Patricio Huerta)

“I use a lot of hardware and wire for the structure of the body,” Lucrecia says. “I’m always thinking that I have to give the feeling that [the puppet] is beautiful—elegant and slim—but I also need to be aware of the person who will be carrying it. They also deserve to enjoy interacting with the public.” Lucrecia and her team love working with visitors, especially children. That is why the texture of the puppets needs to be soft and delicate. She hopes to generate curiosity among children and adults while generating awareness of the monarch butterfly and its importance in the environment. You can find more information on butterfly gardening by downloading tip sheets from

Come see these giant monarch butterfly puppets coasting over the Botanical Garden, and keep your eye out for the real thing in the Native Plant Garden. Bring your kids, and don’t forget your inner child—each will be delighted! Lucrecia will be with us on June 25; July 11, 12, and 23; August 27; and September 19 and 20 to show off these beauties. She is also working on a new character, La Catrina, to be debuted in the fall. We hope to see you here!


Lucrecia Novoa said:

Hi Miriam thanks again for include me in this blog.
My group and myself are having a great experience in this event!!! see you this Thursday

Maria Rose said:

My family and I always love seeing the monarch butterflies but never knew their way of life, very interesting! I look forward to taking my 2 young daughters to the event. It looks like Lucrecia has made a beautiful recreation.

Well done NYBG!

Sandra Peralta said:

This is a great description of Lucrecia’s artwork! She wants to transmit a significant message through her works and puts a lot of effort in every single piece that she recreates. Will be visiting the NY Botanical Garden soon enough!