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

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

 

Bees in Sun Valley

I have 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.

gampi

after dipping in beeswax

on the road

Part of the thrilling process of learning about native pollinators and their relationship to flowers is moving beyond my immediate surroundings and exploring environments that are further afield. One of my most favorite parts of this province is the Okanagan-Similkamen region with its fragrant desert hillsides, the Ponderosa Pine forests, the orchards and of course, the wineries.  But even getting there is a rich experience as roadsides are often full of wildflowers that color the dusty banks with splotches of red, blue, purple and yellow and white. Some of those colors come from native plants, like the lupins, yarrow and Indian Paint brush, but sadly, some also come from invasive species like some thistles and knapweeds, Dalmation toadflax, sulphur cinquefoil and oxeye daisies.

Indian Paint Brish and Lupins

 

Thimble Berry and Lupins

Bumblebee alighting onto a native rose.

A feast of lupins!

Lupins of different tonalities and Indian Paint Brush

It’s interesting to observe the communities of plants. Where they grow and how they grow. Indian Paint Brush is semiparasitic. It needs to rely on neighbors for survival. Is it the lupins that provide the help, the tree or some other plant?

Bird’s Foot Trefoil, yarrow and wild roses. This was such a fragrant place to be! The roses were amazing.

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.