muscari

A late start to the new year’s postings, but the pollen has been on my radar since December. I’ve collected several samples of winter flowering plants, and am beginning this documentation with the latest one, muscari (sp), which I purchased today from a local nursery just because I couldn’t wait for the muscari in my garden to bloom.

According to Kirk (Plants for Bees), these tiny cobalt-blue bells with the white scalloped collars offer both pollen and nectar to bees. Honeybees benefit from the early pollen source, but bumble bees and solitary bees also visit. Muscari is a fragrant delight.

 

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I’ve attempted to dissect one of the miniature blooms.  6 dark anthers that appear to be attached to the walls of the corolla,  dehisce a creamy yellow pollen. Sonicating the blossoms helped with the process of pollen harvesting.

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opening last week and culture days this

Vernissage! A great evening at the Richmond Art Gallery with the opening of two exhibitions, Cameron Cartiere’s and mine. We heard a beautiful performance by members of the renowned musica intima ensemble. The music was amazing, such gorgeous voices, and Jacob Gramit’s arrangement of Charles Butler’s madrigal was perfect. A very cool section of the madrigal was the recreation of bee sounds for 4 voices! Thank you Caitlin Beaupre, Melanie Adams, Taka Shimojima and Alvin Carpintero for sharing this evening with us.

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members of musica intima ensemble performing Charles Butler’s madrigal, “The Feminine Monarchie,” new arrangement by Jacob Gramit. Photo by Laurence Trepanier

photo by Laurence Trepanier

photo by Laurence Trepanier

Detail of

Detail of “not by chance alone”. Photo by Scott Massey

Scott-Massey-pollen-install

“thistle, rose, gilded, golden, glad: to Dorothy Hodges,” installation of pollen work. Photo by Scott Massey

This weekend, the Richmond Art Gallery and the Richmond Art Centre are presenting two days of Bee culture: Buzzworthy! On Saturday there will be a super variety of fun and interesting workshops for visitors to participate in. Just to mention a few: my bee buddy, Madame BeeSpeaker, Lori Weidenhammer, will be giving visitors tips on how to plant a pollinator garden in their backyard. Don’t miss that one. Lori is amazing! Master bee-keeper and all-around bee and garden expert, Brian Campbell and I will be presenting a pollen-based art-making workshop for visitors of all ages. On Sunday, the RAG is presenting a screening of the superb documentary on bees, “More than honey,” followed by a discussion led by Brian Campbell. (Yes, he gets around!).

not by chance alone

September marks a special month for me—the project I have been working on for almost 3 years is on display at the Richmond Art Gallery. (The exhibition opens on September 12th). Well, about 2/3 of the entire project has been installed for this exhibition. It climbs 16′ in height, and we have placed a few pieces on the floor, not many, just to indicate that the work continues and the installation is partial. I am most grateful to the curator of the RAG, Nan Capogna. She’s wonderful to work with. She’s very knowledgeable, she’s got a keen eye, she’s considerate yet honest with her comments and critiques. It is a privilege to work with someone of her caliber. The Preparators at the gallery are also fantastic–sensitive, very capable and efficient. Thank god they know how to do math and grids!  Kathy, Hilary, Melanie and Paula, part of Nan’s educational, administrative and curatorial team at the gallery are super to work with too. What a great group, and what a great experience this installation has been.

I’m sharing the exhibition space with an artist from Vancouver, Cameron Cartiere, and although we are thematically connected–we are both exploring the subject of bees–our approaches, perspectives and modes of execution are different. Cameron’s installation is stunning.

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Installing almost to the rafters with Darius!

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Partially completed text in the large windows

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Detail of installation. Photo by Scott Massey.

perhaps a why

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This summer has been a busy one–completing the large bee project, (I feel like I should say this in capital letters and with arms waving); I have the great privilege of being part of an exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery next month. So there are many things I have neglected in order to focus completely on preparations for this upcoming show.

But I’ve also been peering very closely at little blurs of bees in my immediate neighborhood. This project is with the Environmental Youth Alliance and the Citizen Science Bee Survey (which has been a fantastic experience). I’m learning more and more about our native bee species every day, and loving every minute of it. This project too, is soon coming to an end.

And I’ve been invading the private parts of wonderous flowers, anxiously looking for that lovely dust, pollen; and seeking out nectar-and-pollen rich bee plants with my friend and bee-master, Lori Weidenhammer. (And now that the flowering season is winding down, I realize just how little pollen I’ve managed to collect–ha, the work will have to wait for next spring). I’d make a shameful bee.

I know that many artists are able to reflect upon their work while in the process of working, (some are highly articulate) and yes, I have scribbled notes and scratched drawings in sketchbooks and in various other places, but to stop, to step back, and to consider what this bee project has really been for me these past 3 years is another matter altogether. It requires a sense of detachment which I do not have at the moment. Perhaps I will start with this then, the crux of the matter–that art is not detached–not from life, not from our relationships, not from our modes of being, of thinking and of doing.I am like the Harvester in the image above (detail from my bee project, not by chance alone). In the midst of activity, every encounter, (tiny or substantial) brushes against me, and I with it; and it leaves its mark.This is existence, this is art for me, not autonomous, but deeply relational (even though I do so much of my work alone). I recall Cheryl Meszaros, a beloved teacher and mentor, defining the work of the artist– she said the artist pulls, withdraws something from the social imaginary, transforms it, allows us to see it in a new way, and then puts it back into that imaginary. Each perspective adding to the ones already there. Cheryl was doubtless quoting the work of a philosopher, for she loved philosophy. My encounters with Cheryl are endless, despite her passing; her work has affected me deeply.

alien among us or beautiful invader

Purple-Loosestrife-_7718 This amazing plant is purple loosestrife (lythrum salicaria). It has a terrible reputation as an invasive species and is black-listed nation wide because like so many introduced species, it has no natural predators here, so it takes over and displaces the native plants in its environment. If you search purple loosestrife, you get headlines like “invasive species, weed alert” and even “aliens among us”–phrases with which cultural studies theorists would have a field day (sorry, no pun intended).

Yes, I do understand this concern over the damage an introduced species can cause, but before I diligently consign my pilfered roadside example to the flames, I have to admire the astounding beauty of this plant’s pollen-bearing blossoms. Each flower has BOTH brilliant green pollen AND golden pollen–two different pollen colors, two different stamen lengths, and even two different stamen colors. This brilliant palette is further enhanced by the purple-pink of the petals. Gorgeous visual cues to attract pollinators. Of course, this is one of the plants that Dorothy Hodges includes in the book I’ve been working with for some time now. When I first saw her sample (below) with the 2 different pollen colors in it, I couldn’t believe it. Yes, tonality of pollen changes from plant to plant and season to season depending upon environmental conditions, but this variation is astounding. So, yesterday’s discovery of the plant itself at a UBC roadside ditch has proved immensely informative. The blossoms actually do have two colors of pollen!  Moreover, purple loosestrife is trimorphic, that is, it has 3 types of flowers. (The variations have to do with the relative lengths of the stigma/style and anther/filament combinations). Adaptations, I presume, to aid the plant in ensuring pollination. DH-116-purple-loosestrife Whatever its reason for having such colorful pollen, I much prefer the epithet, “beautiful invader,” that Canadian photographer, Brian Johnson gives to purple loosestrife. You can read more great information in the article that Brian Johnson wrote for Microscopy UK. Brian’s floral photography (called “A Flower Garden of Macroscopic Delights) is astoundingly beautiful, and well worth checking out.

Collectors These

 

I recently discovered a poet, Ben Truesdale (as “distilled voice”) who writes beautiful, often lyrical poems on a variety of subjects. His poems on bees have captured my imagination especially. I couldn’t resist reblogging his work here. Collectors These.

via Collectors These.

more buzz and more cool pollen from the pollen path

This past weekend, I had the very great pleasure to be at a workshop given by artist, Lori Weidenhammer (the official “Madame Bee Speaker”) at the UBC Farm.  Lori was downright fabulous–informative, engaging (and entertaining). Her passion for bees is infectious, and I think that all the students left that afternoon with a wealth of new knowledge under their belts (as did I).

Lori gave me the opportunity to try my hand at sonic pollination in the field, with borage blossoms, but unfortunately, I was not successful.

When I got home though, I was determined to try again. I harvested a stem of borage from my garden, put it in water and waited for a bit for the plant to acclimatize to the new environment. Each blue blossom has stunning deep purple anthers. I held a blossom over black paper, and with my tuning fork (“C”) zapped the anthers with the vibrating fork. Presto! A lovely little puff of pollen fell onto the paper! What a thrill. Apparently there are several genera of bees that can buzz pollinate–bumblebees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and some stingless bees. Honeybees do not have this ability.

I don’t have enough borage pollen to make a good color sample yet, maybe later in the summer.
borage-buzz-pollination

I’ve also been collecting fireweed (Chamerion Angustifolium) and managed to get enough pollen to create a reasonable color sample. The fireweed pollen is sticky. It has viscin threads on each pollen grain, which makes it clump together and as a result, the pollen doesn’t come off the anthers easily.

Fieweed-pollen

In the image below, I’ve placed 2 fireweed anthers on the color samples in Dorothy Hodges’ book, The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee, and got a reasonably close match to Hodges’ lightest Fireweed color. Fresh anther pollen is different in tonality from the pollen loads collected by honeybees and bumblebees, and it also varies in tonality from year to year and plant to plant, depending upon the environment in which the plant grows.

But look at those anthers–the filaments are pinky-purple. What a wonderful contrast to the blue/green pollen.

Fireweed-on-color-samples

a family resemblance

I’ve been collecting pollen from lupin and wisteria; both have similar flowers–typical of the pea family–blossoms with wings, a banner petal and a keel! Very cool. It seems that not every bee can readily access the special floral shape, but bumblebees can. They’ve got enough size and heft to pry their way into the bloom’s center.

Lupin-close-up

Intense orange pollen from this species of lupin.

Lupins-and-pollen

This leaf-cutter bee had no problems getting into blossoms of my Japanese white wisteria. She’s been foraging on the flowers right along with the bumblebees.

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The pollen from the wisteria anthers–a lovely pale grey-brown.

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The exquisitely shaped and detailed wisteria blossom. The tip of the keel is lavender and the banner spot is almost a lime green.

Wisteria-blossom

a mother’s day feast

The rhodos and hawthorns were abuzz these last few days with a variety of pollinators:  flies, wasps, solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees. A feast for the eyes! Could one say some of these busy visitors were mothers and others were workers foraging for their mothers? A little bit of anthropomorphization, yes.   Nontheless, such a delight to observe. I cannot identify them specifically–this will be a lifetime’s work, but some of the bees are easier to distinguish than others.

A little Megachilid mason bee (?) about to descend onto a cluster of hawthorn blooms.osmia-on-hawthorns A honeybee already partially loaded with creamy-white pollen.honeybee-on-hawthorns

A beautiful little mining bee,  rear legs and head covered in pollen about to move from one cluster of flowers to another inviting bloom.andrena-on-hawthorns Little worker bumblebee sisters with bright, fuzzy bottoms busy at work.7290-bumblebees-on-hawthorn

A pollen-loaded mining bee taking a break to clean off those important antenna. She carries pollen even high up on her rear legs and on the hind side of the thorax.
andrena-resting-on-hawthorn-leafA little bumblebee worker diving into a bluebell.
bumblebee-on-bluebell Look at the pollen load on the belly of this little bee. Her abdomen is upturned and she has a large head. Megachilid, but cannot be more precise.megachile-on-rhodoAnother view of the same bee. megachile-on-rhodo

And here’s a mystery bee. Is that the same bee as the one in the two images above?mystery-bee

collecting magic dust

I am always surprised and completely taken aback by even the smallest encounter with the beauty and complexity of nature. Yes, it sounds rather excessive, but it’s true.  I am still dazzled by Dorothy Hodges’ book on the pollen loads of the honeybee, but I am now collecting anther pollen for myself. Experiencing pollen first-hand is incredible (despite the sneezes).  I can completely understand how an artist like Wolfgang Laib can spend decades patiently collecting pollen.The work that Laib creates with sifted pollen is extraordinary, breath-taking, genial. (Wolfgang Laib).

My undertaking with pollen is miniscule, but nontheless full of thrilling discoveries.This is Erica Carnea (Winter Heath) pollen shaken from the tiny flowers onto a black piece of paper. Only the top left corner of the sheet is still black, the rest has been lightened by the fine dusting of pollen. The amount is tiny actually, even though it seems like more in the photo.

Erica-Carnea-pollen-collected-2015

 

The pollen color looked warm and creamy on the black paper, but when I transferred it into an acetate envelope, the color looked far more peachy-beige. I’m attempting to match the pollen colors in pencil crayon here.

Erica-Carnea-pollen-2015-on-white

 

Siberian Squill: blue/green anthers and pollen and a rhapsody of blues in the petals!

6887-squill-anther-pollenAnd here, in this close-up, the pollen grains are visible on the anthers of the squill. The stigma has some pollen transfer,  probably the result of my having shaken the flower to release the pollen grains.

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A crocus, with the intensely golden pollen collected from the flowers:

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