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Funeral Pamphlet, letterpress, relief print (200 pamphlets were printed in the edition and offered as take aways in the gallery space at Penland School of Crafts where this project was shown. Brown MFA candidate for creative writing, Meredith Luby, wrote an elegy that is printed on the back of the take aways.)

Elegy for Bees

In the beehive, all the individual members dedicate their lives for the bigger entity. Sometimes I believe monasteries are imitating a beehive. There is this formalized striving for selflessness, for letting go of ego for the totality of life. . . .20,000 – 60,000 bees are one undivided entity.

                                                                                          -Michael Thiele, a biodynamic beekeeper

 

Studying and keeping bees has been a spiritual experience for me. The smells, sounds, the vision of the swarm, it all brought out a fear and excitement that comes with working with bees. The experience heightened my senses and brought something out of me I didn’t know was there.  Last year Penland's hives suffered the loss of half of their population, something that also happened to 40% of small beekeepers in this country. The feeling of loss and neglect was overwhelming, a feeling all small beekeepers are experiencing more often. 

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Drone Cell Rings, broze, concrete (cast drone cells from my dead bee hive)

Bees are leaving their hives and dying out in large numbers with no clear explanation. This global crisis is called “Colony Collapse Disorder.”  Commercial bees are artificially bred and fed; they are toted from farm to farm in plastic hives, and are exposed to crops covered in poisonous pesticides. Thus, the health of these bees is in jeopardy as they are vulnerable to disease, mites, and pollution. As an artist, I had to ask myself what I could do to bring awareness of the great epidemic. I was inspired to tell the story of these bees, and share my connection to their spiritual world.

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Honey Comb Earrings, cast bronze, silver (cast from employ honey cells from dead beehive)


This piece stands as an elegy to our dead hive and all other colonies that humans have failed to protect. The work is also an attempt to renew our individual and cultural sense of balance with (and reverence of) nature. From our dead hive, I casted pieces of the honey comb our bees constructed for survival. I have reduced their birthing places and food storage spaces into pure adornments. I chose concrete in order to represent human efforts to rebuild their collapsing colonies. However, our tools and skills are incomparable to theirs. This jewelry stands as an offering to the queen and her colony in the afterlife. This project is part of my commitment to these spiritual teachers and caretakers who give all they've got for the survival and well-being of the community. 


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Lament Locket, tin type, brass, silver

Elegy for Bees

     The sound that lulls me is a coffee maker. It used to be an open window. A familiar hum, a smell of clove. Their bodies crackle under my shoes, delicate wings, fuzzy torsos, I see them tucked in the bend of every curb. They used to land outside the doorframe. The lines of their hives are better than what humans build. Better than what is crystallized in a plastic bear in my pantry.

     They flew into corners of houses, frantic, fading, hitting the wall hoping it would open, let them out. There is little sunlight left and their corpses decorate my flowerpots. I mistook the largest for a hummingbird, turned up my palm for it to land. But there was bigger work to be done. In the dusty hours that we spent sleeping and the ones we spent awake too. She was readying herself, readying the others.

      The air is dry and hollow. It wants for sounds to fill it. Hers is gone, all the work, the heavy lifting and then some. I crack my knuckles before I finish a thing. Her work is never over and now it never will begin. If this is an in between we are teetering close to an edge. I’ve heard our survival depends on theirs. But even if that isn’t true, even if humans find a way to turn a shoulder, go forward, find a new way to make everything grow. Even then I will count each of her legs. Her wings, her eyes. Each part that is foreign and rough and nothing at like my own skin. I won’t forget. Theirs is a society dependent on women, like ours.

     The open door of the fridge lights a dark kitchen. Filled with plums, pears, ripe peaches. Things she made. The wet flesh is so cold it sends a chill to my ankle bones. The juice drips down my chin to floor. Be careful, my mother’s voice says. I clean in it with a paper towel, the counter too. Wash my hands in hot water. Be careful, her voice says in my ear, you don’t want to attract bees.

                                                                                                                        -Meredith Luby 2013