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, 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.
I’m reading a book called Buzz: urban beekeeping and the power of the bee, by Lisa Moore and Mary Kosut (2013). The authors read the practices of beekeeping through a sociological lens, and call their study an “api-ethnography.” Yes, they have a sense of humour–bees can’t be interviewed or participate in the same way that human research subjects can, but the authors created their own research strategies to successfully manoeuver through the social territory of the honeybee.
One major area of exploration for the authors is our tendency to anthropomorphize honeybees–they are “cute and fuzzy” and lend themselves to cartoon-like renditions rather easily. These characterizations make bees less threatening and more accessible, but we also load heavier baggage onto bees: “Bees are described as industrious (“busy as a bee”), helpful, driven, purposeful, cooperative and smart.” (p.126) Certainly these attributions reflect our cultural expectations and values, and perhaps tell us more about ourselves than they really do about bees. When I read the above passage, I recalled a similar description in Charles Butler’s book of 1609, The Feminine Monarchie. Last year, I used Butler’s bee proverbs in an art piece; I was so taken by his charming collection of phrases. Interestingly, Butler’s descriptions of bees are: profitable, laborious and loyal, swift, bold, cunning…” We haven’t changed that much apparently since the 1600’s in our relationship to bees, or at the very least, in our descriptions of them.
I haven’t been very diligent in posting updates on the progress of my big project on bees, (entitled “not by chance alone”) for the most part because it is difficult to share the endless bouts of self-doubt, but also because the documentation that I have been doing (consistently) has produced iffy photos often taken under poor lighting conditions. Stitching together images of varying exposures is tedious.
.A couple of months ago, I decided that I really needed to lay the entire project out to see how the parts fit together and to give me a better idea how to proceed towards completion. It would be the first time I would see the entire project together.
My friend, the artist Elizabeth MacKenzie, helped me with the huge undertaking of putting together the 300 or so puzzle-like sheets that I had completed. I got permission to use the gym at my partner’s school (the administration and staff were very kind to allow me the freedom to do this). Sitting on the bleachers and working from a master diagram, Elizabeth would yell out the number and letter code of each sheet and give me directions where to lay a particular section. Here’s s shot of the “installation’ – it really does help to show the scale of the work.
Elizabeth was also the official photographer for this session, so I am very grateful to her for the images, her GPS and puzzle-making skills (:-) and the wealth of knowledge and experience in art-making which she so generously shares with me!
We still weren’t able to get the complete piece in one shot without massive distortion, so here are sections of the work: this one is the left side.
I’m back to the bees, making a little progress daily, but running out of room quite literally. Here’s a new section that I’ve almost completed; it’s close to 24′ long, and of course, I can only put it together virtually since my studio wall is 12′. I’ve added a figure (about my height) to give an impression of the scale.
I found a beautiful book of poetry by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, called The Bees. Here’s one poem from that wonderful book. (I stole a phrase from this poem for my previous blog post, “shadowed busy heart.”)
I have the privilege of being part of an upcoming exhibition on environmental art at the Roundhouse Community Center Gallery in Vancouver. My bees will be there! Well, not all 50,000, but the 17,000 (or so) that I’ve completed to date. I am very excited about the show, about having the opportunity to exhibit this work in progress and about sharing the space with so many wonderful artists and artistic practices. I’ll be spending these final 2 weeks before the installation joining the image sections together and working out the logistics of display.