We don’t often get this kind of weather, so I couldn’t resist a walk down to the village to take some shots of the snow storm engulfing the neighborhood.
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.”)
Here are my bees,
brazen, blurs on paper,
besotted; buzzwords, dancing
their flawless, airy maps.
Been deep, my poet bees,
in the parts of flowers,
in daffodil, thistle, rose, even
the golden lotus; so glide,
gilded, glad, golden, thus—
wise— and know of us:
how your scent pervades
my shadowed, busy heart,
and honey is art.
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.
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.