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

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 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.

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?

 

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

menzies larkspur: an ode to May

Sometimes a blossom that I am studying has so many astounding structures that taking it apart and understanding its beautiful components becomes a total obsession for days.  And so it is with this little native wildflower, Menzies larkspur, Delphinium menziesii,  from the family Ranunculaceae. It produces nectar in its amazing little nectar spurs, and sheds pale creamy pollen from its numerous anthers.

 

 

Process 2: flubs

A print of an enlarged dissection of a Cranesbill Geranium blossom.  One of the tricky aspects of printing on this thin gampi paper is that the printer does not like it, and the inkheads of the printer tend to clog and splotch, often resulting in a totally messed up and unusable print. You can see the bottom edge of the image has black spotches.

Cranesbill Geranium,  in process, 34

Cranesbill Geranium, in process, printed on gampi, 34″x 22″.

Close up detail of the bottom left section of the larger print (above). I’ve tried to rescue the print by creating little drawings around the ink splotches. Not sure if this is successful, but I am going to use the image anyway as evidence of this inevitable part of the printing process.

bottom edge of the  print, Cranesbill Geranium

bottom edge of the print, Cranesbill Geranium

for this one seed, Persephone

 

A little more than a week is left of this year–the end of one–the beginning of another.  Perhaps now, in the midst of cold winter when the queen bees are sleeping, it is the time to sit and reflect upon these months of silence and stillness.

The ancient Greeks have a touching myth to explain the changing seasons, the tale of Demeter, the earth-mother goddess and her daughter Persephone. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, and doomed to spend her entire life underground, in darkness with her captor. Demeter raged against her loss, and in her grief  plunged the entire earth into cold winter. Demeter demanded that Hades return her daughter to the world of sunlight, but alas, Hades had enticed Persephone into eating the seed of a pomegranate and for this act, she was destined to live a third of the year in the frigid darkness of Hades’ realm, and the earth doomed to remain cold and empty of flowers. (To read further, see the Homeric Hymn to Demeter: earlywomenmasters.net).

I’ll start with a flower that Demeter missed, apparently, and left on the earth despite the cold, the dark and the snow. This is the Winter Rose, or Christmas Rose, appropriately called thus for the season, although it does not belong to the rose family at all, but the Ranunculaceae.

The Hellebore has super cool petals that are tubular shaped, and which are actually nectar-holding structures, ie nectaries. The large colored structures that we think are petals, are not petals at all, but sepals.

None of the native bees are awake and out when most of the Hellebores bloom, but I’ve seen honeybees on them on warm sunny days in early spring. The amazing, complex structure of the blossom with its strange petal-nectaries, the multiply-pronged stigmas and abundant stamens absolutely enchant me!

Hellebore  10x15" archival print on gampi, beeswax

Hellebore 10×15″ archival print on gampi, beeswax