Last week I wrote about the installation of The Absolute Way of Things at the Mendel Art Gallery. The RBC Artists by Artists page on the gallery’s website states:
From critique to collaboration, each mentorship pair decides the extent and nature of their interaction. The mentorship culminates in a presentation of one or both artists’ work in the Mendel’s lower lobby. Presentations can include finished work, works in progress, or documentation of performances or site-specific works that have taken place outside of the gallery space.
Most of the exhibition is Monique’s work, but we decided to include one collaborative work and one work by me. Born Twice is a visual presentation of the stages a bee goes through from egg to adult. The pages were reduction lino cuts with up to 16 colours printed by Monique before she dipped all but the final page in beeswax. The book structure was designed collaboratively. We decided on a half-circle/fan variation. I liked the idea because it implies a full circle/the wheel of life. Here’s a close-up of the structure on my workbench before mounting.
It’s a double accordion, but has more layers than you might expect: because the pages were wax-dipped, I had to sew a layer of paper to them so that the rest of the structure could be attached with paste/PVA mix. I also had to add a second layer of paper to extend the length of each page so that the upper hinge would be a manageable width. Then the upper hinges were mounted. This took quite a while as I had to let the paste/PVA dry completely after each hinge was mounted. Finally the base accordion was attached, again waiting between pasting each page. The base remains quite flexible as only the folds holding pages are glued, the rest of the structure remaining free to move. The diagram below shows one page in position.
The final page in the book has moving parts. The adult be can be moved farther out of her cell by means of a slider. Through the use of a pivoting mechanism, her wings move up and out with the lifting action.
Here is a view of the wing mechanism from the back. You can see the top joint.
The pivots are all constructed from paper. I made a centre post for each by stacking three discs. Here’s a diagram which gives an idea of how the pivot works.
The upper diagram shows a cross-section with one lever arm, and the lower shows the slight difference in diameter between the post and the hole in the lever arm which is necessary for the arm to move.
The mechanism can’t be operated by viewers in a gallery setting, but it has a function beyond being an amusement. The wing can sit against the bee’s body for added protection when the book is being moved, then be opened for display.
The curved shape of the bee’s body and its extended foreleg did not permit me to retract the bee completely, so the boards were made deep enough to protect the bee’s leg when moving the book.
Catacomb is my solo book work. I wrote a little bit about it in a previous post. It focusses on one of the themes of the exhibition: the potential loss of honey bees. Because I am interested in words as well as images, the piece is about the impact the disappearance of bees would have on language.
The work is housed in a paper box with a laser printed design on the front and the back, and includes a laser printed page of text which reads:
If all the bees die, we lose not only some food crops and some flowers, we lose language. The small scrolls in the honeycomb are printed with words for honey, honeycomb, mead, or wax selected from twenty-seven languages ranging from Sanskrit to Finnish. Phrases like ‘busy as a bee’ and ‘honey-tongued’ will lose their meaning and disappear. Not only our physical world will be impoverished, but our linguistic one as well.
I made matching stands to display the work at an angle for easier viewing.