And April in your face

This past week I have been looking back, returning to and re-encountering work that last year I had packed and stored, tucked away from visibility and memory. This image below is part of a much larger project on bees called “not by chance alone,” which was exhibited at the RAG in the fall of 2015. After the show came down, I started to rework parts of the project, turning the work’s initial impetus and focus away from honeybees, and solely towards native bees and pollinators. Although native bees were already a large part of the original project, I wanted to reconfigure the content with native pollinators as the dominant thematic.

I extracted this section from the motifs of the big project–it represents an interpretation and conflagration of several mythical figures: she is Flora, Persephone, Cloris,and Melissa.  Metaphorically, she is spring, abundance, fecundity and renewal. I based her face upon Botticelli’s Primavera.

“And April in your face,” relief printing on gampi, beeswax, ink, graphite., collage. 12’x13′. 2015-2017 jasna guy

She is composed entirely of tiny bee imprints created on 45 sheets of translucent gampi paper. Each individual sheet is 18×24,” making the completed work, 12’x13′. The warm tone of the paper is enhanced by dipping the sheets into melted, unrefined beeswax.

The text which surrounds her, celebrates the arrival of springtime. It is taken from a beautiful Italian madrigal, for 5 voices, called “Ride la Primavera,” . The first line is usually translated as “Spring is smiling,” although ridere in contemporary Italian means to laugh. But hey, the language gurus know their Renaissance stuff! The music was written by Heinrich Schütz in 1611; lyrics by Giambattista Marino.

A rough translation of the madrigal here:

“Spring is smiling, for beautiful Clori is returning,                                                                       Listen to the little swallow, look at the grasses and the flowers,                                             But you Clori, more lovely in this new season, Keep old winter,                                            for your heart is girded by eternal ice.  Will you, cruel Nymph,                                            for kindness, hold the sun in your eyes, And April in your face?”


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.


Intense orange pollen from this species of lupin.


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.


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


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


what we have

This weekend a fantastic new book arrived in the mail: Dave Goulson’s A Buzz in the Meadow. Just the cover alone made me gasp, it’s so beautiful! The illustrations of insects are stunning, and I knew right away that the buzz in this book would be coming from more than bees alone.  Goulson relates his experiences of the last 10 years of the ‘meadow’ which he created in rural France, a place where bumblebees and the myriad insects and animals that form the ecology of such an environment could thrive.

I enjoy Goulson’s writing very much – he’s both entertaining and exceedingly informative. The first book of his I read was A Sting in the Tale (2006) that explored his life long love of the natural world, (especially bumblebees).  No need to add that Goulson has fantastic credentials in entomology and that he has spear-headed the conservation movement to save bumblebees in the UK.


While I was enjoying the first forays into A Buzz in the Meadow, I received one of the regular email updates from the David Suzuki Foundation. This particularly distressing article was about a new pesticide awaiting immanent approval for use in Canada: flupyradifurone (; Oct 22, What’s the Flup? Bee-ware, by Lisa Lee).  Not satisfied with the controversial neonicotinoids already widely in use on our agricultural lands, it seems we are adding yet another toxic poison to the already over-stressed environment. What chance do bees and other pollinators have? What hope is there for a healthy future of our planet?

In the Preface to his new book, Goulson states that his purpose in writing  is to make us see our world “with new eyes.” He argues that if we could pay close attention to the richness of the natural world, that then perhaps we would learn to be better stewards of this planet.

I realize that agriculture and economies are fused, I realize that the issues we face are not simple ones, that we cannot simply stop everything detrimental at once, or shift the paradigm completely, but we have to start somewhere to make changes, and I am grateful to people like David Goulson who single-handedly help us to see, help us to value, help us to save what we have.

tattered, torn

Observing the bees that visit my garden is such a thrilling experience – noting the various foragers that alight on blossoms with such concentration and determined focus, learning about the floral preferences each species of bee has, and watching the bees zoom away loaded with pollen and drunk with nectar enthralls me!

The other day, I came upon a new and intriguing sight – two bees, one a bumble bee and the other, a honeybee, both with tattered wings. I had read that bees work and work until they literally die from exhaustion and that one can see on the bee’s body evidence of wear-and-tear. I came upon this bumblebee in the centre of a blossom. I thought she was taking 40 winks, so I gingerly picked her up – but alas, that was not the case. The honeybee on the right was still actively foraging on Culver’s Root when I noticed her, but she too had torn and tattered wings. How many days did she have left of her short little life?