“What’s All the Buzz About?”
South Florida EcoArtists Ally their Talents with Endangered Bees
A backpack designed like a book, each page a honeycomb to be inhabited by live bees, is a living sculpture, for educating about bee swarming habits and the practice of migratory beekeeping. Gallery visitors remove envelopes of bee-nurturing wildflower seeds from an art installation, to grow their own backyard bee habitats and upload photos of their gardens onto a website. A large ceramic sculpture that seems to grow like an outsize mushroom from the trunk of a pine tree, has all the characteristics buzzing pollinators require. Dozens of clay “fossils” are reminders of the shapes of the best plants for bees we need to plant so they don’t become real fossils.
These are the EcoArt projects included in “What’s All the Buzz About?” an inventive art show brought to life by artist and curator Rolando Chang Barrero in the newest arts hub this high energy culture advocate seeks to establish in Palm Beach County—Lake Park just south of Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens. The juried show that opens this Friday at Lake Park’s Art on Park, gallery/headquarters of the exhibit’s host, Artists of Palm Beach County, will include 20 art works, of which four are by EcoArtists from Miami, Gainesville, Palm Beach Gardens and Stuart. Many of the artists in the show are members of the hosting organization. The show closes August 12th.
Says Barrero, about this show, one of the myriad he has spearheaded since starting his arts blitz across Palm Beach County three years ago: “This is my answer to all of the hoopla and activism going around about the extinction of bees, and GMO’s. We need to stop the finger pointing. We know the problem. What are we doing as a solution? This is my solution….to bring people together to discover and connect through their separate and unique identities (and mediums), and create an environment where these connections can be made.”
Mary Jo Aagerstoun, founder and president of EcoArt South Florida helped recruit the EcoArtists for the show, with Barrero’s enthusiastic encouragement. Aagerstoun notes: “EcoArt South Florida is thankful to Rolando for his understanding and sensitivity to the need for activist EcoArt interventions for our endangered pollinators, and willingness to showcase these smart works honoring the endangered Florida native wild bee and the domesticated honeybee. All bee species are in extremis worldwide. Bringing art to the struggle to keep them (and us) alive is crucial. EcoArt in particular can be particularly effective because it both educates and engages community while doing important direct ecologically restorative work.” (See http://ecoartsofla.org/ecoart-and-ecoartists/what-is-ecoart/)
EcoArt in “What’s All the Buzz About?” (Interview opportunities)
Xavier Cortada brings one aspect of his mammoth, highly interactive FLOR 500 project (www.flor500.com) to the show: encouraging Floridians to regenerate Florida’s threatened native wildflowers, present in profusion 500 years ago when Ponce de Leon became the first European to step on “La Florida’s” shores. At “What’s All the Buzz About?” Xavier includes a “tile drawing” of a native Coreopsis, one of Florida’s native flowers most popular with our wild bees. The Coreopsis image is arranged in separate small squares in a grid pattern. Behind each “tile” is a tiny packet of Coreopsis seeds. Viewers are encouraged to take the “tile” and the seeds home to sow in their garden or on their balcony, and upload a photo of the flowers to the project website once they are in bloom. According to Xavier, “The art process dutifully mimics the biological lifecycle in which a flower’s sole purpose, once pollinated, is to die so that its seeds can be dispersed. Wild plant processes can no longer operate as they did when wilderness was a reality (we've paved it). There is no wilderness. We've killed all the flowers. And the pollinators. And the habitat. For wild plant species to survive we need artificial vectors (humans) to spread the seeds and make the gardens. We need to act proactively to keep nature on life support or it will die."
Jesse Etelson is currently working on experimental “Habitat Sculptures” to combat diminishing native bee populations in South Florida. Jesse’s installation of wall text, video, drawings and clay sculptural bee habitat models will illustrate his research for direct intervention EcoArt projects designed to support native bee populations, and engage/educate South Floridians on steps that can be taken to support native bee populations in backyards and public urban spaces. Jesse is a graduate of EcoArt South Florida’s 2009 apprenticeship program and was mentored by pioneer EcoArtists, Betsy Damon and Lynne Hull.
Lucy Keshavarz has two very large scale direct restoration EcoArt projects recently completed, which are designed to attract and nurture native bees and butterflies, “EcoWalk at Seabourn Cove” in Boynton Beach (http://www.boynton-beach.org/departments/public_art/projects/dixie_ecowalk.php) , and “Babbling Brook” in Westgate/Belvedere Homes CRA, both in Palm Beach County. In this exhibition, Lucy will exhibit several dozen clay “fossils” (imprints on clay) of leaves of native Florida plants of particular importance to bees, and which are liberally planted at Lucy’s two EcoArt project sites. At the exhibition opening, visitors will have the opportunity to create their own leaf “fossils” in clay, with guidance and discussion from the artist.
Kelly Rogers combines her identities as both scientist (she is one of very few individuals certified to identify Africanized bees) and artist in works like the “Bee Hive Backpack,” her contribution to the “What’s All the Buzz About?” show. Based on the design by an 18th century naturalist, Kelly crafted the Bee Hive Backpack, whose comb frames open up like pages of a book. Kelly walked with it strapped to her shoulders through communities in key locations where bees are known to migrate, as both a gesture of recognition of the challenges bees are facing, and an opportunity to engage the curiosity of those she encountered on her travels, suggesting simple actions people can take to improve the health of bees. Kelly mobilized her Bee Hive Backpack in gardens in Florida, an art fair in New Orleans, and during a walk with other artists in Mexico.
Art on Park gallery, 800 Park Avenue, Lake Park, FL (just north of West Palm Beach off of Federal Highway/US1/Broadway)