Monday, May 31, 2010

The Medium Is The Message

Like honeybees, I view wax as the most precious building material.

When I see wax, I imagine a young worker bee hanging quietly in a corner of the hive shedding sheets of wax pages. Patiently, she excrete the delicate wax scale from her hypopharyngeal glands located in her abdominal pockets. Like pulling pages out of a printer, she then chews the wax with her mandibles, softening it and deposit the mouth full onto a cell wall. This is a laborious process for the worker bee. Wax is intimately connected to their way of life. As an artist, I hope to treat beeswax with the same patience and intimacy.

Today I pushed an encaustic piece into maturity by building layers in the intuitive, raw, Jackson Pollock manner. Essentially I am using drops and beads of coloured wax to optically push the eye to not focus but try to contain the impression of an active swarm migration.

Visualizations of satellite images and live location based mapping has played a role in catalyzing my new aesthetic direction as well.

From Oil

From Oil
From Oil

From Oil

" The Overlay Media reference database contains the position of approximately 350,000 cell positions. The position of these cells was calculated using approximately 200 million measurement samples. This data is kept up-to-date by applications using the moLocate location service." From:

"Satellite image of circular crop fields in Haskell County, Kansas in late June 2001. Healthy, growing crops are green. Corn would be growing into leafy stalks by then. Sorghum, which resembles corn, grows more slowly and would be much smaller and therefore, (possibly) paler. Wheat is a brilliant gold as harvest occurs in June. Fields of brown have been recently harvested and plowed under or lie fallow for the year." From: Wiki

180 Project Opening June 4th 5-8pm

In examining the swarm form, I am most challenged by the visual duality of pressure and release. I find the fluxing density of buzzing bees, whether midair or grounded both terrifying and mesmerizing to look at. As much as I enjoy painting bees for their sheer 'stunning" beauty, it is also a visual language that best capture the drawn tension I feel that exist in our current natural, economic and social systems.

Paradigm [no.1], is the first of a series done in oil on canvas. It is now on view at UBC campus's Boulevard Cafe. The show is titled: The 180 project. Shannon Newby and I have collaborated to pair our individual artworks to create a diptych. In this manner, our works catalyze a dialogue with one another about subject matter, form and material. Shannon's piece, titled: Frantic Simplicity richly plays with materials of encaustic, dress patterns and oil paint. In my work, I was really trying to study the optics of the swarm. I am curious to deconstruct how our eyes perceive these minions in motion. Using oil, I took on a classical Rembrandt approach of pushing and sculpting the paint to catch light and build volume.

Photo: Erik Newby

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

“Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about” - p.148 from The Secret Life of Bees by S.M. KIDD

The rural charm of Pitt Meadows (population: 17, 500) is soothing and quiescent. An hour and a half drive away from the city of glass, we hit the "Pitt" or as I like to call it, city of grass. Tim and I walked into a room in the Ramada Inn packed with 30 or so other curious minds waiting to uncover the secret life of bees. Dr. Bee's Level One Bee Keeping Course brought together nurses, pharmacists, bike mechanics, farmers, husky ranchers, gardeners, florists, social workers, entrepreneurs, and me, the token artists. Ron Lin aka Dr. Bee holds a PhD in Entomology and Apiculture from Simon Fraser University. At a crossroad after completing his degree, instead of diving into a research lab somewhere in Alberta, Ron took the entrepreneurial path into beekeeping in Pitt Meadows and established Honeyland.

The three day workshop walked us through alot of the materials covered in the book: Beekeeping in Western Canada. His slide presentations kept us engaged. His quarky mad scientist laughter thunder trailed after his own jokes (either we were a tough crowd or he needs to get better material.) But I think I can confidently speak for all of us that cracking open the propolis sealed hive is the most memorable learning exercise.

From Bee Keeping 101 with Dr. Bee
(Click on the image to play video)

Beekeeping, like painting, requires a lot of patience and focus. It demands the steward of the craft to look and look again at what is growing on the frame. Monitors is half the job of a beekeeper. As you scan in close quarters of these minion activities, looking for disease or queen cells, checking up on how the eggs, larvaes and pupas are developing, (without sounding cheesy) the sense of sacredness oscillates inside your whole being. Amoungst other perks and hooks (obviously honey) perhaps it is this intimate connection with the hive that makes beekeeping so satisfying.

(Click on the image to play video)

To all my beekeeping cohearts, lets keep in touch and share links online. I would love it if any of you would share some of your memories below in the comment box! I wonder if starting a "BC Beekeeping" facebook group would be beneficial?

Oh one more request. Here are the books I have read so far related to bees. If you have any summer reading recommendations, please advise!

Title: Fruitless Fall
Author: Ron Jacobson

Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd

Title: A Recipe for Bees
Author: Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Title: HONEYBEE Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper
Author: Marina Marchese
Her Facebookgroup: click here

Title: A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey
Author: E. Readicker-Henderson