Mad scientist or artist? Portland sculptor crafts intricate robotic bugs

PORTLAND, Maine — The lime green beetle appears suspended in time, wings outspread to reveal an unexpected interior of tiny metal gears — wheels and pinions, springs, levers and ratchets.

It looks as though the insect could be wound up. With a whir, the cogs inside its body would start turning, its delicate wings would shudder to life and it would fly away — across the small studio apartment, out the window and over the rainy streets of downtown Portland.

“People see the possibility in them,” Mike Libby, the robo-beetle’s 39-year-old creator, said. “Where do they come from, and what are they used for?”

In reality, the beetle doesn’t move. It’s a sculpture made out of a preserved jewel scarab beetle, antique watch parts and other machinery. Libby created it for Insect Lab, a body of whimsical artwork the Portland artist began in 1999 and has since gained global popularity.

In addition to a

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