I’ve created a virtual composite of the work I’ve done so far. Over 14,000 bees here out of the estimated 50,000 that will make up the complete colony. I”m just under a third of the way through the project. My studio space is not large enough to put the entire piece together, even in these early stages ( it’s 18′ x 12′ in size and growing), so this image is very cut-and-paste looking, although it still does not show the individual sheets of silk tissue (18″ x 24″) on which the bees are printed. All the sheets will be dipped in melted bees wax and then joined together to create the final work.
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.
Cento: a patchwork, a poem created entirely from lines quoted from other poets.
The other day in conversation with a group of women friends, I brought up the question of identity and the role that appropriation plays in the construction of self. My view was that we quite literally produce an every-changing sense of self through and in the work of others (books, the arts, conversation, etc.). In my case, I feel there is nothing of my own in this ‘self’, (ie. original) but that all of it, all of it comes from others. To me this is clear from the way I create my drawings. They are quite literally drawn from the writing of other authors and the image making of previous artists. That is, the production of self, both individual and shared, is a becoming, through and with interactions with others – choosing, acting, living—composing a life within a social context, an inextricably social context. Even if most of my work is produced in isolation, its source is always dialogic.
During my recent “return” to the Koerner library at UBC, I came upon a small installation in the foyer by the artist Luis Camnitzer. It is a collection of discarded objects Camnitzer found on campus, each mounted with a randomly chosen piece of text. The viewer is invited to make connections between the objects and the words. The pedagogical associations are inevitable, considering the location of the work – a major university library, and this aspect is underscored by the take-away card/advertisement, which lists a series of books available in the UBC libraries, related to the exhibition (even giving their call numbers).
I found the installation interesting and humorous and enjoyed looking at each object, reading the text and trying to make associations between the two. The installation plays with traditional theories of meaning, displacing direct relationships between object and word, and offering instead meaning produced in the moment, in an continuously changing and unstable relationship between the signifier and the signified.
(image: detail of installation by Luis Camnitzer).
This project brings to mind another art project, a superb blog posting, entitled “Daily Drawing Project” by the artist, Elizabeth MacKenzie. (check out the engaging drawing project Elizabeth gives her students). Art and pedagogy on multiple levels.
On July 5th, one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly died. The scribbles, drips, scratchy integration of text, drawing and paint, the vast canvases and the re/interpretation of antique literary sources and modern poetry are some of the aspects that drew me to his work. Twombly painted flowers several times throughout his career, the most recent in 2008, a series of roses that incorporated some fragments of text from Rilke’s own addresses to the rose. Since I’ve been working with rose petals these past two years, I thought I’d name this recent series of 12 white-petal drawings, “12 for Cy.”
Recently, I lost Kiko, my little companion of more than 15 years. She was such a wonderful dog, always happy, always thrilled to see us, always eager to share in our lives, even the most ordinary parts, like sitting in front of the TV, squeezed in between us, licking off the butter from the pieces of popcorn that came her way. It’s strange how empty this house feels, without her energy. In the last week of her life, I started a new drawing journal just to remember her by. Here are a few pages from that journal.