Golden Bees 2008-2014
When I started the project in 2008, my intent was to create images depicting the disappearance of the Western Honeybee. The initial research and execution was one of discipline; I created long panels of bees in floral backgrounds, exploring the theme of bees in nature. Next, three bodies of work were completed: the Specimens, Observers, and Angels of Agriculture. The three hundred and sixty five Specimens are a disrupted colony; they are presented to the viewer as a scientific observation. Six observers, disconnected from the specimens, inhabit separate panels. Their thin lines represent the fragility of nature, and its susceptibility to be altered by our interactions. Thirty six Angels of Agriculture represent the casualties of the colony collapse disorder.
The study of the disappearance of the Western Honeybee is a body of work that addresses the environment, but it came as a natural progression of my past AIDS work. The disappearance of the honeybee and AIDS have a parallel, both are unresolved scientific challenges. AIDS has a growing impact on human lives. The disappearance of the Western Honeybee has the potential of a similar result.
When researching bees in terms of science, history, and literature for the Queen triptych, the project took on an additional element man’s fascination with the bees. This fascination is evident throughout history, in civilizations as early as ancient Egypt. The images Hive, Hierarchy, and Humming shown as a triptych, represent man’s scientific interest in the complex nature of the colony. The structure of the bee colony reflects the importance of hierarchy in human society. In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy describes the Russian cities as a bee hive and concludes, “The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension. All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life.”
Tolstoy’s words are also appropriate in referencing the Sacred Bees, a triptych about the importance of the honeybee as a sacred symbol throughout time and cultures. The continuation of this project includes the images of the Dance of the Bees, the Garden, Flower Specimens, and the Beekeepers, all of which address the importance of the bees’ work in the natural world and our current awareness of their plight.