Patterns ground me. I’ve tried to make work that had nothing to do with patterns, and it didn’t feel like me. In the midst of midterm election shenanigans in the U.S., working with the Voronoi diagrams has provided me with times of peaceful creation and discovery.
Interconnection has always been one of the defining concepts of my work. In doing research for my latest linocut on alfalfa of all things, I read articles about pollination, bee species, crop rotation and water export controversies.
This linocut is a depiction of a field of alfalfa, a plant from the legume family that produces a bluish-purple flower. Even more important than cranberries (the focus on my last linocut), alfalfa is a forage crop that is fed to dairy cattle. Like cranberries, alfalfa relies on bee pollination, in this case to produce seed to replenish the crop. So without bees, we wouldn’t have that milk for your coffee or for your favorite ice cream.
Alfalfa is a plant that has been around the world and back. We have records of its cultivation as a forage plant by the Greeks and Romans. It isn’t really a favorite of our imported honey bees. They complain that the structure of the flower smacks them on the head. And many experienced bees remember — so you need lots more bees — and young ones in particular — who are willing to be smacked on the head for the nectar. To the rescue comes our own native alfalfa leafcutter bee who somehow gets the nectar collected and the pollinating done without a fuss. But each of these species is greatly troubled by the use of the pesticides called neonicotinoids. You can read more about this issue in my previous blog.
In addition to the challenges of pollination, alfalfa is now positioned squarely in the middle of the water wars of the American West. Western farmers produce alfalfa (irrigated by precious water resources) as a good cash crop, and also as a rotation crop in the fields that grow the vast majority of the produce crops we enjoy. These farmers claim that if they don’t use their allotted water, they will lose rights to it according to current water laws. In addition, some part of this alfalfa crop is being harvested, baled, and shipped in containers around the world. Right now, American alfalfa is feeding Chinese dairy cows.
Beauty, fussy insects, water rights — honey, ice cream, the produce that makes up your nightly salad. I am left with a speechless fascination and awe of the intricacy and connectedness of our natural world. How to protect it? Which choices to make? How to make people care, especially when things get complicated — as they do with alfalfa.
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.
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. Continue reading “Making art with a message”
My two latest linocuts deal with jewels — jewels of the living kind. Out of Many, One is a bird’s-eye view of part of the Great Barrier Reef. Made up entirely of coral polyps, this living structure stretches over 1,400 miles off the eastern Australian coastline.
From above, the reefs seem to glow as if illuminated by an underwater light. And yet the National Academy of Sciences estimates that it has lost half of its coral since 1985 due to coral bleaching. Warmer oceans stress the coral, which depend on a symbiotic relationship with algae-like protozoa that photosynthesize and provide the coral with nutrients. Stressed coral expel these protozoa and begin to fail.
|Elizabeth Busey, Out of Many, One. Reduction Linocut. 28 x 14in, Edition of 10, $350 unframed.|
Beloved, my latest series of reduction linocuts, looks at places that are in danger because of global warming. Ephemeral Sanctuary looks at the delicate islands that ring the southern United States and the Caribbean, such as The Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda and many others. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on Bermuda. These pink sand beaches and shallow aqua waters hold a special place in the hearts of many throughout the world.
|Elizabeth Busey, Ephemeral Sanctuary. Reduction Linocut, 10 x 33in, Edition of 13. $375 unframed.|