menzies larkspur: an ode to May

Sometimes a blossom that I am studying has so many astounding structures that taking it apart and understanding its beautiful components becomes a total obsession for days.  And so it is with this little native wildflower, Menzies larkspur, Delphinium menziesii,  from the family Ranunculaceae. It produces nectar in its amazing little nectar spurs, and sheds pale creamy pollen from its numerous anthers.

 

 

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?”

 

Process 2: flubs

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, 34

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.

bottom edge of the  print, Cranesbill Geranium

bottom edge of the print, Cranesbill Geranium

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

the project

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.

IMG_3345 copy

 

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.

july 3 Left Side

 

Here’s part of the left and the centre portion:

July 3 Centre and left side

 

 

And the right side:

July 3 Right Side Flora

 

What a day this was!

progress

jan-11-2014--progress-copy

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.

poet and bees

IMG_4220-copy-2

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.