Mr Trueman’s artwork made from ants.
Chris Trueman bought the tiny creatures alive in batches of 40,000 for £330 each for his bizarre masterpiece. The 32-year-old then had to kill them before painstakingly rearranging them into a picture using tweezers. The final piece, which measures 48 inches by 42 inches, was priced at a staggering $35,000 dollars, around £23,000.
And it was eventually sold to American franchise Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which owns a collection of museums displaying things ‘odd and amazing’, for an undisclosed price.
Mr Trueman, from Claremont, California, admitted that putting the piece together had been a challenge.
He even stopped half way through the process because he had an attack of conscience after killing the ants.
He said: “It took several years, not because of the actual labour, but because at one point I started to feel bad about killing all of the ants and I stopped the project for over a year.
“Then I decided that the first ants would have died in vain if I didn’t finish the work so I decided to continue.
“It was also quite an expensive work to produce each shipment of ants would cost $500.”
According to Mr Trueman, inspiration for the picture partly sprung from an experience he had as a young boy.
He explained: “I was revisiting an experience from my childhood, when I was 5 years old. It was the first time that I intentionally tried to harm intelligent life.
“My younger brother and I attacked an ant hill and were bitten by red ants. I decided to return to that early childhood experience.
“Ants ride the line of what we consider intelligent life, if we see them in the kitchen, many of us think little of killing them all.
“If we take the time to look at them they are remarkable creatures.”
Mr Trueman admitted that he had initially tried to catch each ant by hand but soon realised it would take him years to collect enough.
But, after looking online, he found that he could buy the insects in bulk.
He said: “The ants are actually being farmed and sold to people who have exotic reptiles as pets. These are feeder ants for horned lizards.
“I was able to order quantities of 40,000 at a time and they would come alive in large plastic jars.”
The insects were killed using cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover – a process Mr Trueman said he had learned from the boy scouts.
He then had to use tweezers to position each ant onto a sheet of Plexiglas, which was smeared in a layer of Galkyd resin.
Mr Trueman said first responses to the piece ranged from ‘gross’ and ‘creepy’ to ‘cool’.
He said: “The reactions have been very interesting.
“The first response for most people is that it is gross, creepy or some think that it’s cool that it is even possible to make something like that.
“Then as people start to think about the work it gets very complex and raises a lot of questions like is it ok to kill anything for art, what is the value of an ant’s life?”