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.

 

 

 

pressed for time

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

 

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.

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.

gampi

after dipping in beeswax

not by chance alone, a video

As the exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery draws to a close (January 3, 2016 last day), I have the great pleasure of creating an additional page for this blog site with a newly produced video documentation of the “bee” part of my exhibition.

And as I think back to the summer of 2012, when I first started working on the bees, I do not think of where I have been, but of how far I have come through this process, and what I have gained. If I had to sum up, in a few words what the bees have meant, perhaps these words might serve well:

“And I said with rapture, here is something I can study all my life and never understand.”

(Samuel Beckett)

 

bee-ing (a)part

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Just last week, the Richmond Art Gallery held the final piece of public programming related to the present exhibition. A panel discussion, entitled  Bee-ing Part of the Solution, was the centerpiece of the event for me.

Highlights: 

Our high-powered bee expert, Dr. Elizabeth Elle from Simon Fraser University gave an engaging and informative presentation on native pollinators.  Her advice, “Plant Flowers” offered the audience an easy and practical way to help all pollinators. Even pots of pollinator-friendly plants on the front porch or deck are helpful, she stated emphatically and showed us a slide of her small but blossom-packed front garden!

Insight: Dr. Elle suggested that we do not have to focus primarily on native species of plants, but to be wary of invasive species–these plants (however helpful they seem to be, like Himalayan blackberry), eventually create a monoculture, crowding out other species of plants. And of course, monocultures are part of our larger agricultural and environmental problem.

Whenever I think of planting flowers, I think of Brian Campbell – garden expert par excellence and bee teacher! Brian’s presentations are always interesting. He has a gentle way of talking, always full of seriousness and humour at the same time; and I invariably want to stop and to listen.

Insight: Brian gave a considered response to a question from one of the audience members, Lori Weidenhammer. She wanted to know how we might switch our intensive focus on “saving the bees” away from the honeybee and onto other pollinators without upsetting beekeepers. Brian said that historically we have asked far too much of the honeybee, and if she were to be returned her to her rightful place as one player, one part, within the complex web of pollinator diversity, we would be helping not only the honeybee but all pollinators and the environment in general.

Professor Nancy Holmes, (writer, poet and creative writing educator), involved with diverse pollinator projects through UBC, at Okanagan, began her presentation with a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, and brought the tone of the event around from the realm of science to that of art-making. I am taking the liberty of reproducing this lovely little poem here:

“TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.” 

It is the ‘reverie’ which art appeals to, I think. Certainly it is for me. For to create something, whether it be a meadow, a poem, a visual art piece, or a  cleaner environment, we require imagination. This is our singular ability.

I had the privilege of being part of this panel discussion too, and my presentation was related to the artwork I have on display the gallery at the moment: “not by chance alone,” the large bee project; the small Charles Butler piece, “profitable as a bee,” and the “gilded, golden, glad,” pollen tribute to Dorothy Hodges. Brian Campbell has very graciously posted my presentation on the blog portion of his website, (www.thebeeschool.ca) so instead of reprinting it now, I will discuss my ideas on pollinators and the role of art, in future posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!).