Earlier this year I worked on an art exhibit organized by environmentalist Holly Hawk. The exhibit opened on Earth Day at the Art Institute of Hollywood and it's theme was the rapid decline in honey bee populations due to Colony Collapse Disorder.
I began brainstorming ideas for paintings or sculptures I could create but nothing seemed to really convey the severity of this issue. Billions of bees are mysteriously dying each year and I wanted to show how immediate and present this problem is. I often notice dead bees scattered around the sidewalks around Los Angeles, there is usually at least one or two every ten or fifteen feet I walk. One day while walking by one of these mysterious dead bees I realized this was what I wanted to show. I am always amazed at the number of dead bees I walk by, this makes it obvious to me how real this issue is. I wanted to share that confrontation, so I began collecting dead bees I found on the sidewalks near my house. I quickly accumulated over 300 dead bees without much effort, i'm telling you they are everywhere if you look. I came up with the idea to make three pieces that would tie together. All three would be a scene suspended within a thick layer of resin and all three would use the dead bees I found.
Since each of the three pieces have very different creative processes I will write a separate post for each one. This is the first piece in this set, it is 16 x 20 inches and weighs about 18 pounds. I wanted to show that it is our impact that has caused the declining bee populations. I imagined an ominous human footprint in the earth, trash, wilted flowers, and dead bees. I decided to try to actually create this idea using all real elements. Real dirt, flowers, bees, trash, a real life scene preserved forever in resin.
STEP 1: I started off working in a cradled wood panel again. I filled it with dirt and wilted leaves and flowers. Then I stepped into the dirt to create the foot print. I added in trash from bee products such as food and beauty products. Then I scattered over a hundred dead bees into the scene.
STEP 2: Next I poured in a base layer of resin lightly coating the bees and other objects as well as absorbing into the dirt. This is where I encountered my first problem. The dirt I used was too dark, resin makes things permanently look wet, so when wet this dirt turned near black. This made the bees really hard to see and made the scene look muddy. I had to come up with a solution in about 30 minutes before the resin started curing and hardening.
STEP 3: I had to rush outside and find some dirt that was a much lighter color. Luckily I found some but now I had to lift up every bee, leaf, and flower and place this new dirt under it before the resin cured. I decided to leave the dark dirt visible inside the footprint to create contrast and make the footprint standout.
STEP 4: I continued to build up thin layers of resin until I reached the edge of the wood sides. I originally imagined that the entire scene would be covered at this point and I was going to leave the wood edge exposed like a frame. However as you can see in the image below that the scene was too high and was sticking out.
STEP 5: To extend the depth of the resin I had to build a damn out of tape around the outer edge of the wood panel. I poured the resin into the taped off area and built it up in more thin layers until the scene was entirely covered.
STEP 6: After the resin was cured I removed the tape, sanded the edges and corners smooth, then poured one more layer of resin that flooded over the entire piece dripping over the edges and encasing the entire piece.
The resin ended up being close to an inch and a half deep by the end and weighs abut 18 pounds. Below is a photograph of the final piece but the depth and reflectiveness of the resin make it really hard to photograph. In person the scene is bright, vibrant, and crystal clear. Thank you for viewing.