Wenatchee bees

 

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a fellow bee-nerd friend in Wenatchee, WA., Lisa Robinson.  As part of her extensive work on pollinators, Lisa has learned how to pin insect specimens in the ‘European’ fashion, with the wings spread out and the legs extended. An exceedingly demanding and time-consuming process, Lisa learned this skill from her mentor is Dr. Don Rolfs.  I had the great pleasure of meeting him too. Don is very gracious and he generously shared some of his vast knowledge of native bees with me. I  found these specimens to be exceedingly inspiring visually and I was thrilled to be permitted to photograph them. The short animation here is a first experimental tryout of using the bees in an art work.

The pinning work!

 

 

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

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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.

 

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.”

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.

drawing from the herbarium

I have been collecting botanical specimens for some time now. The idea of ‘collection’ as a form of knowledge is of interest to me. What happens when one attempts to recreate nature by bringing as many objects as possible into one space? How can renmants and fragmentary things represent the whole or the real?

 

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.

gampi

after dipping in beeswax

a tiny life, a tiny death

 

Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus. Asteraceae. 17″x 22” Archival print on gampi, beeswax. 2017 jasna guy

Recently I attended a native bee identification workshop at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island given by the wonderful entomologist and bee specialist, Lincoln Best. (Instagram: @beesofcanada). Just close by our classroom, there were gardens, hedges and some wild areas. In the wild part, there was a small bush of Lesser Burdock–a new plant to me–which my bee-buddy, Lori (Madame Beespeaker) said was Burdock. Sadly, Burdock is an invasive plant, but that negative aspect notwithstanding, Burdock is very generous in the pollen and nectar it offers its visitors, and that plant was buzzing with activity.

Every day of our workshop was a fantastic learning experience, but if I had to choose one experience only, I think it would be the delight, awe, sadness and beauty in the intense observation and exploration of a tiny black bee, a Dianthidium species, and the life and death that I witnessed on one of its floral resources, this very same Burdock, Arctium minus.

Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus. Asteraceae.

 

Dianthidium foraging on Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus.

Note the frayed edges of this little bee’s wing. She must have been working very hard provisioning and building her nest. Bees in your Backyard states that Dianthidium collect various materials for their nests, including pebbles, soil and resin, and that it might take up to 1000 trips for a female to build, provision and conceal one nest. No wonder her wings are in tatters!

Male Dianthidium circling a female on Lesser Burdock

The females do not lose their attractiveness to males after mating, rather, the male continues to pursue the female because he wants to be the last male to mate with her before she lays an egg, to increase the likelihood that his genes will get passed on to the next generation.

Dianthidium mating pair

Working on the next generation: The female just goes on with her foraging and nest building after her encounters with the male. Note in the photo above, the female has very light-coloured pollen on her head, probably the pollen from these disc florets she was foraging on before the male accosted her. Dianthidium belong to the Megachilidae family of bees, which means that the female carries her load of collected pollen on special hairs under her belly.

Lori and I did not manage to find any of the Dianthidium nests, sadly. That would have been fantastic!

Dianthidium male caught in the web of a tiny spider. Burdock leaf.

And finally, the same plant that offers food and a mating-bed also brings death with it! The cycle of life.