P r e t t y : u s e f u l

Penticton Art Gallery, Penticton, B.C.  July 5th-September 15, 2019

I have the great pleasure of having an exhibition at the Penticton Art Gallery with my friend and fellow bee-enthusiast-entomologist, Lincoln Best.

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Botanical images, graphite drawing of lomatium, and “Summer” display of bees and herbarium specimens.

The title of the exhibition, “Pretty:useful”, hints at the language that we use to talk about plants, and I ask how that use of language reflects our relationship to the plants themselves?

Beautiful, useful, native, exotic, introduced, edible, nutritious, medicinal, noxious, aggressive, lucrative, rare, productive, keystone, endemic, passive, decorative, weedy, extirpated, healing, messy, restored, ornamental…

I question our relationship to plants, and wonder if we can move beyond seeing them as objects for our own use, to a less privileged, less-human-centered perspective to one where we can appreciate plants for themselves, with no question of value or worth to us? As Robert Harrison writes in his book, Gardens. An Essay on the Human Condition: 

We historically have lived as if the earth was given for us

…a privileged environment…with no sense of responsibilities towards its care. We saw ourselves as consumers and receivers.

 

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Yarrow, Twin Flower and a Larkspur seed sit next to Small-Flowered Blue Eyed Mary rendered in graphite

Two interconnected projects are presented in this exhibition– a large-scale installation of photographic images of closely observed native flora, printed on paper and dipped in melted beeswax.

IMG_6622 walking onion for printing copy

Walking onion. Archival inkjet print, melted beeswax

 

And as a counterpoint, over 200 little pollen colour drawings, rendered in powdery, soft pastel.

Pollen-wall

A wall of pollen

pollen-samples

Details of Pollen samples

 

To this, taxonomist Lincoln Best, adds a third thread, a selection of entomological specimens, collected from the myriad diversity of native bees that inhabit this unique region of our province, the southern interior.

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Lincoln Best’s “Spring”: herbarium specimens and bees from the early season.

The exquisitely mounted native bees, the pollen studies and the botanical images, represent a mere fragment of the diversity of the native flora and fauna found in the Southern Okanagan Valley, but scientist and artist hope that this limited representation will inspire viewers to explore the wonders to be found in our beautiful, but diminishing natural environments.

 

 

 

small atlas of bees

In honour of World Bee Day, May 20, 2019, I’ve created a composite of experimental cyanotype works using actual bee specimens. (Only dead bees found in the garden were used here). With the 3-dimensional bee forms, the resulting images have considerable blur — where the bee actually touches the sensitized paper, the silhouette  of the bee is recorded with some degree of clarity, but in other areas, the forms are more ambiguous. In terms of the text, the work of British poet, Carol Ann Duffy came to mind; her book “The Bees” is a marvellous compendium of her ruminations on bees, on us, and our relationship to the environment. I’ve used fragments from two of her poems to create this animation.

 

A Few Blue Notes

In midwinter, when there are no bees and no flowers in bloom (or very few), and inside work takes precedence, sorting and sifting through images, specimens, and texts becomes the focus. All, in preparation of the new upcoming season.

This winter also, Brian and Crystine Campbell graciously featured some of my work in their 2019 seed catalogue, Uprising Seeds. (UprisingSeeds.com). Thank you so much, Brian and Crystine!

One of the most engaging aspects of my study of pollinators and their floral resources, is that of pollen. So, here is a small selection of some of the unusual colours that I’ve collected — some of the blues!

I’ve included only one native bee in this short animation, a sweat bee, an Agapostemon sp, from the Halictidae family. Not only are these brilliant little bees beautiful, but they even have the capacity to sonicate, or buzz pollinate flowers. What can be more amazing to see than a glorious metallic green bee, with blue eyes, and with blue pollen on its hind legs?

the bees do dream

Recently I made a very cool discovery — that snowflakes can form around a variety of different particles — rain, dust and even grains of pollen. This idea that high up in our atmosphere, the renmants of summer’s glorious flowers are swirling around in the dark, cold skies is just astounding. And, even more, that these tiny beautiful particles which are intrinsic products of plant life and critical resources for bees, can create the exquisite beauty of snowflakes, is inconceivable. The connection–pollen—bees—-pollen—-snowflakes is the inspiration for this little animation, “The Bees Do Dream.”

pressed for time 2018

Installation shot, Pressed for Time, Seymour Art Gallery.
Photo credit: Kara Wightman

The exhibition I am sharing with entomologist and friend, Lincoln Best opened on Sunday at the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver. We had a great time at the vernissage! Thank you to all of you who came out to see the show. Exhibition continues at the gallery until July 21, 2018.

We are offering 2 workshops in tandem with this show–the first is on Sunday June 17, from 2-4 pm. A free drop-in drawing and printmaking workshop with artist Cyndy Chwelos, for participants of all ages. Everyone welcome!

The second free workshop is on Saturday, June 30, at 2:00 pm. Artist and author, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker) of Victory Gardens for Bees fame, and educator and naturalist Erin Udal will engage participants in an interactive, fun workshop on identifying native bees and gardening for pollinators!  Registration for this workshop is suggested and can be made through Seymour Art Gallery

 

Projection of Thimbleberry blossom: part of the exhibition.

I placed a blossom on my scanner to see what would happen to the anthers — would the blossom die, would the anthers open and shed their pollen?  Leaving the blossom on the scanner, I scanned the progress of development over several hours and then joined the still images into a video. (With many thanks for Ace Media for the video help).

Bees in Sun Valley 2018

I had the great privilege of being part of a group exhibition at the Sun Valley Center Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho. Here are some photos from the installation. I am showing 3 different but interconnected bodies of work here: the botanical imagery, a section of the printmaking piece from 2015, “not by chance alone,” and some of the pollen work I did based on Dorothy Hodges’ book, “Pollen Loads of the Honeybee.”

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bee-neighborly pollinator week

It seems early, spring is not officially here yet, but there are bulbs pushing up their bright heads through the soil and early shrubs and trees are bursting with delicate blossoms. Time to plan ahead for Pollinator Week 2018 (June 18-24).

I have the very great pleasure of having an exhibition in June and Pollinator Week falls within the duration of the show, so I’m creating a series of postcards that will be offered gratis to visitors to the gallery.

The postcards are little reminders/suggestions on creating a pollinator and bee-neighborly environment.

flutter

Sorting through piles and piles of old work, more precisely the cast off sheets of imagery on gampi from the large bee-themed work from 2015, I started to play with the materials; exploring, in a sketchbook, the idea of collections, of possessing nature. Specimens, both botanical and entomological, are instrinsic parts of my new work, and I am reflecting upon my own need to see nature as a collectible entity.

 

gleaning, sorting, printing, considering

As the season of bee observation, floral collection and study draws to a close, I am starting to look through my image archive, considering the printed ones, what to keep, what to set aside–what thematics to consider in preparation for next year’s exhibitions? Soon, I will be starting the intensive task of printing new images, most probably with the help of a new Epson printer, as I have devastated my present one with the abundantly free-floating fibers in the gampi paper I use.

But despite the hate-hate relationship of gampi+printer, the paper is lovely to work with, and because it is not coated, there is not the same sharpness in the image that real photography paper has. It has a natural warm hue. These aspects I really like.

Then the long, slow task of dipping each image in melted beeswax. The paper is already translucent, but the beeswax renders it more so, and adds a further warmth to the tone.

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after dipping in beeswax