Making art with a message

In the epigraph of my copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, E.B.White is quoted:

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”

Bees have been all over print and social media lately. Concerns are now being raised about the use of pesticides called neonicotinoids, and their effects on bees. The pesticide affects the nervous system of these tiny creatures, which impedes their ability to navigate and find nourishment. You need to look no further than your cereal shelf or your refrigerator to find foods that rely solely on bee pollination. Cranberries are one of these plants.

Blessed by the Bumblebee
Elizabeth Busey. Blessed by the Bumblebee. Reduction Linocut. 23 x 16in. Edition of 12.

I wanted to experiment with creating work that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but might force the viewer to think about the image. What is this pattern? What does it mean? Why did the artist choose to impose this extra element into the work? In Blessings of Bumblebees, I take a view of a cranberry bog at harvest time and place it within the matrix of a honeycomb. Cranberries — a native shrub to North America — are created through flower pollination. While imported honey bees do pollinate these plants, our native bumblebees actually do a better job. The plant and the insect were made for each other.

Our society and much of the world benefits from the use of pesticides because we no longer worry about infestations that cause crop damage and food shortages. But we do this in the dictatorial manner that E.B. White is warning us about. Our inability to see the natural world in a holistic manner means that we target one problem, and create several others. Perhaps a reduction in monoculture — and an increase in biodiversity — will bring back the creatures that feed on the invading insects. Perhaps we can tolerate less perfect produce. Maybe there are ways to distribute risk better between farmers and consumers.

As you hold hands or bow heads this Thanksgiving, give thanks for the bumblebees. They make that great cranberry-orange relish possible.

Can art make you think? Can art make people care? My newest portfolio entitled Silent Spring asks just that.



2 Replies to “Making art with a message”

  1. Not only are your prints aesthetically pleasing, the environmental issues and concerns that are informing your art elevate them to a level that goes beyond skill and technique. Thank you for sharing your creative journey and offering inspiration and contemplation to others.

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