to be free of you,
move with the swarm,
ascend in the shape
of a blossoming tree—
your head on a pillow
emptied of scent and colour,
winter’s cold indifference
(Lorna Crozier, 1992)
Working with stamps and linocuts is very addictive – repetition, the basis of the process, allows for large areas to be produced within a relatively (that’s relatively) short space of time (compared to hand drawing, of course). I’m up to 9,000 bees to date and counting!
At the same time, I can cut new stamps as the muse strikes me, thus maintaining some of the individuality inherent in hand drawing. The repetition involved in creating the patterns contributes to the unity of the total piece, but further, each act of stamping or printing produces a unique imprint – the pressure applied to the paper, the amount of ink on the stamp and even accidental movements and slips of the hand create a variation in each print. From clear impressions to strange blobs, I never quite know what I’m going to get!
After almost a year, I am back to working on the bees again. (cf post from August 5,2012) A few months ago, a friend of mine, artist Elizabeth MacKenzie came for a studio visit. I showed her my wax bee drawings from last summer and said that I wanted to continue working on the bees, but that I had not yet found the form and the media that suited my purposes. My problem was to do with how I was approaching the bees – tiny little individual drawings that took a great deal of time (basically it would take me about 10 years working everyday – to complete my appointed task of drawing a colony of 40,000-50,000 individual bees). My subsequent attempts at creating groupings, swarms, etc. with more stylized shapes did not satisfy me at all. A bust! ( cf post Aug. 9 &15, 2012).
Elizabeth said that we understand bees not as individuals but rather as a very large mass, a community that has little or no differentiation. And she was right! She suggested I look to the lino cuts of Nancy Spero for inspiration. This I did, and yes, I found my path!
Lino cuts and stamps give me the pleasure of actually drawing bees, but at the same time, it is easier to create vast numbers of multiples. And further, each act of stamping creates a variation in the image – the amount of ink and the pressure applied add to the differences between each impression.
Bees fall prey to a number of diseases. Mites, like the varroa, can infest a colony, feed off the growing pupae, inhibit normal development, and transmit viruses that cause deformities. If the infestation is severe enough, eventually, it can lead to the destruction of the colony. Does the use of agricultural pesticides weaken the bees’ immune system, leaving the bees less able to handle infestations? Do certain bee-keeping practices add to the problem?
The image here has two different mites: the varroa and the tropilaelaps.