A Work In Progress
When I saw that Einstein had said, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination...no more men,” I began researching Colony Collapse Disorder, a recent worldwide phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or honey bee colony abruptly disappear, leading to the death of the hive. Soon after, I was building beehives in my studio, one cell at a time, just as the honeybee does.
It is my desire that each person who encounters this work will become more aware of the plight of the bees and will do something to help. Art heals. It is our responsibility, as artists, to raise awareness—and from awareness, positive action.
My current body of work, including extensive research of bees and their hives began several years ago when I came across various articles describing what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon in which large numbers of worker bees abruptly disappear from beehives or honeybee colonies. The term CCD was first applied in order to describe the drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honeybee colonies in North America in late 2006, but it is not specific to the region. CCD currently affects more than 25 countries worldwide.
This current body of work has evolved from my previous series, Martian Gardens, which was first inspired by the discovery of ice on Mars. If there was water, there were gardens. If there were gardens, there were bees. It’s my belief that we wouldn’t be sending rovers to look for signs of life if we weren’t concerned about our own planet’s expiration date. Einstein postulated that man would have no more than four years to live if bees disappeared from the surface of the earth: “No more bees, no more pollination…no more men.”
I built beehives in my studio, one cell at a time, as honeybees do. I created these sculptures with a hexagonal mesh similar to a honeycomb, and with porcelain, beeswax, gold leaf and resin. Individually these are fragile materials, but combined they create a very strong, solid structure. Just like a beehive.
The central piece is a suspended human-scale beehive. One person at a time is allowed to enter the hive. The visitor witnesses the sound of buzzing bees combined with music and other natural elements inspired by bees. This work provokes all senses; from the smell of beeswax to the sound of swarming bees to the glow of honey. The tight interior space, made up of thousands of hexagonal cells, is meant to give a feeling of the intensity and community of an actual beehive. The solo experience of the visitor reinforces the notion that if the bees disappear, so do we. “The Waggle Dance” is a large-scale painting, one of several created for this series, which depicts a bee phenomenon discovered by Nobel Prize winner Karl von Frisch. The honeybees communicate the whereabouts of pollen and nectar to the colony by dancing. The dance is always directed toward the sun and involves specific sounds, all of which are used in the audio component of the hive sculpture.
A great wisdom lives in the beehive. It is not simply an assembly line of bees; the beehive has a very specific soul.
The wax represents warmth; gold signifies the precious metal of the sun with its alchemical properties; porcelain embodies the nature of fragility; and resin, a dangerous medium if not used wisely, represents finality. The Bee Series is concerned with the vitality of life and its fragile state.
As I continue my work on the hive sculptures, they evolve from chaos to order, undetermined to determined, cold to warm, expansion to contraction, fragile to strong, inanimate to alive, artificial to organic, quiet to noisy and unsettling to comforting—all the while, maintaining a balance and ultimately, an inner beauty and soul. The hive sculptures in this exhibit bring people together, inspiring thought and conversation. They become a kind of “social sculpture,” as Joseph Beuys suggested when he bridged the gap between art and contemporary life. And as Rudolf Steiner, the famous Austrian philosopher and artist said, “Genuine art is an affair of the people, essentially social in character. We must learn to bring art into our thinking. All real philosophers have been artists in the realm of concepts.”
If the current decline of hives continues, honeybees will be extinct by the year 2035. A world without color, fruit or flowers, in less than 27 years seems unfathomable. But it is not. The honeybee is a highly evolved, super-organized social creature that is absolutely fundamental to our survival.
©2008 Judi Harvest