And April in your face

This past week I have been looking back, returning to and re-encountering work that last year I had packed and stored, tucked away from visibility and memory. This image below is part of a much larger project on bees called “not by chance alone,” which was exhibited at the RAG in the fall of 2015. After the show came down, I started to rework parts of the project, turning the work’s initial impetus and focus away from honeybees, and solely towards native bees and pollinators. Although native bees were already a large part of the original project, I wanted to reconfigure the content with native pollinators as the dominant thematic.

I extracted this section from the motifs of the big project–it represents an interpretation and conflagration of several mythical figures: she is Flora, Persephone, Cloris,and Melissa.  Metaphorically, she is spring, abundance, fecundity and renewal. I based her face upon Botticelli’s Primavera.

“And April in your face,” relief printing on gampi, beeswax, ink, graphite., collage. 12’x13′. 2015-2017 jasna guy

She is composed entirely of tiny bee imprints created on 45 sheets of translucent gampi paper. Each individual sheet is 18×24,” making the completed work, 12’x13′. The warm tone of the paper is enhanced by dipping the sheets into melted, unrefined beeswax.

The text which surrounds her, celebrates the arrival of springtime. It is taken from a beautiful Italian madrigal, for 5 voices, called “Ride la Primavera,” . The first line is usually translated as “Spring is smiling,” although ridere in contemporary Italian means to laugh. But hey, the language gurus know their Renaissance stuff! The music was written by Heinrich Schütz in 1611; lyrics by Giambattista Marino.

A rough translation of the madrigal here:

“Spring is smiling, for beautiful Clori is returning,                                                                       Listen to the little swallow, look at the grasses and the flowers,                                             But you Clori, more lovely in this new season, Keep old winter,                                            for your heart is girded by eternal ice.  Will you, cruel Nymph,                                            for kindness, hold the sun in your eyes, And April in your face?”

 

Profitable, laborious and chaste

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.Profitable-as-a-bee---Butler-copy

golden, gilded, glad (2)

Yesterday I went to the UBC Farm market to purchase their wonderful vegetables, herbs and flowers as I often do. Yesterday’s super treat was the Honey Extraction and sale by Jenny Ma of Vancouver Honeybees http://www.VANCOUVERHONEYBEES.com.

After the recent articles on pesticides and the dire problems with disappearing bees, it was so refreshing to experience something beautiful and joyful. Jenny uses “top bar hives” for her bees. She brought a demonstration hive for the participants to see; a hive which she actually made herself! She says the top bar hive is the least intrusive method of managing her charges. The bees form the wax comb themselves to the sizes that they naturally need, so the final honeycomb is more freeform in shape than the foundation-based Langstroth hives that are widely used in beekeeping. The bees have to work harder to make their own wax comb, but it is fantastic to see their own architectural creations.

It was great fun watching Jenny go through the extraction process and to bring home jars of honey and pollen still in the comb. The honey is so fragrant, it’s amazing!

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“Golden, gilded, glad (2)” : last year, I posted a poem “Bees” by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, from her book entitled “The Bees”. Couldn’t resist using her work again as title to this post. Here’s an extract of the poem:

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.

14, 440 or so

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.

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