It’s Show Time! I’ve been spending months building a show of new work. A few pieces are a collaboration with my dear friend, Chuck Savoie. My glass can also be seen at Blue Rain Gallery, as well as at Liquid Light Glass. My inspiration started 4 years ago when we let our friend Caleb Smith put a hive on our property. We wanted more pollinators for our massive garden. What I didn’t expect was to be utterly smitten with these fascinating little creatures! Here is my artist statement so you get an idea of where I’m headed in this new series:
Honeybees are magnificent insects that bring beauty and sweetness into our lives. They work together collectively as a single unit to farm their food, and in the process they pollinate our crops. As a backyard beekeeper with an artist’s eye, I depict elements of the bees’ lives that intrigue me both conceptually and visually in the medium of glass. The curvature of a bee’s body, a honeycomb illuminated in the sunlight, the act of foraging in a flower, their functional and social interactions, and even people’s fears surrounding bees inspire me to translate these elements into sculptural stories. For instance, I like to highlight many of the things we get from bees (honey, fruit, and flowers) in an effort to showcase our dependency on these tiny creatures. I also parallel parts of their social life to our own, anthropomorphizing the collective work of the hive with human torsos utilizing man-made tools.
The honeybee, also known as Apis mellifera, was imported from Europe to provide honey and to pollinate crops. Since honeybees can form large social colonies, they are easily managed and can be transported to pollinate on large-scale farms. Pollination is important for preserving diversity in flowering plants; for bees and humans, it is especially important as a source of honey. The bees that pollinate plants make the honey we farm and use to sweeten our lives and heal our maladies.
But the bees everywhere are dwindling in numbers, and it’s mostly our fault. Pesticides and other environmental factors are threatening the future of native and honey bees alike. My decision to anthropomorphize bee colonies in my ongoing hive series is a response to the connection between humans and their impact on bee survival. By portraying the bees as faceless humans, viewers are able to identify with their functions and appreciate the products of their labor. The major driving force of this series, therefore, focuses on how these creatures function collectively, and how that relates to our presupposed notions of gender roles and social relations. For instance, all worker bees are sterile females, whereas the male drones are only there to fertilize queens from other hives. When they are no longer needed, as in the winter months, the drones are kicked out of the hive. There is also only one queen per hive, and she is directed by consensus in the hive when to lay eggs, and what gender it will become. These are just a few of the details of hive life that fascinate me.
This work compels the viewer to ask questions and search for answers: Why do bees need tools, and what tools do they need? Why depict a queen being pregnant with a honeycomb? What is her relationship to the hive itself? If she were to die with no queen to take her place, what would happen to the hive? We may not regularly consider such questions, but their answers have effects inside and outside the hive. The pregnant queen bee, for example, and her role to reproduce the hive does not presuppose her independence from the other bees; on the contrary, she needs the other bees to fertilize her eggs, to protect and feed her. And the bees need her to produce new generations of hive members that share in the work of gathering food, fending off predators, and making honey.
My hope is that this project inspires people to understand the inner workings of the hive, and along the way gain a reverence for the important role bees play in sustaining the environment.