From August 2-30, 2019 New City Arts presents Swarm, an exhibition of work exploring the plight of honeybees by Rayne MacPhee.
My father taught me the art of beekeeping when I was a teenager living in South Carolina. The hives that occupied the parameter of my childhood home were each their own little worlds, golden standards of productivity and community. The beehives of those teenage years sparked a passion that has led me to continue beekeeping for over a decade. Among all of the joy honeybees bring, there is also an element of sorrow. Nearly every year since I became a beekeeper, I have lost half of my hives from neighbors’ use of pesticides.
The death of my 160,000 honeybees is not a personal dilemma or even a local one. In the United States alone, the honeybee population has declined by 60 percent since 1947, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” or CCD. Though there are several factors contributing to CCD, human carelessness accounts for a majority of the loss.
In 2017 I lost my eighth hive to CCD. In a moment of anger and sadness I wondered, “If honeybees could take their revenge on humanity, how would they do it?” The similarities between hives and cities are too obvious to ignore; I imagined them covering our cities from Chicago to Sienna in honeycomb.
Taking this idea to its logical conclusion, I researched basic urban plans and overlaid them with honeycomb, utilizing ink, graphite and lithography. Over the years, this series has morphed gradually from the concrete to the abstract. Where you could once spot a distant road map has now been completely covered in honeycomb. Where you could once recognize the shape of the city has now become abstracted layers of what the city once was. Perhaps the eventual obliteration of the urban plan is a result of my increased frustration.
The taxidermy honeybees have been collected from my lost hives over the years and preserved. Carefully placed onto paper in organized patterns, they are fragile yet powerful. Like the honeycomb cities, these works are bold but overwhelmingly somber.
My goal for this work is simply to give voice to these voiceless insects and to build a dialogue on the loud impact of their loss. I want viewers to confront their personal interaction with nature; a relationship that is often complex, molding, volatile, harmonious, and destructive.
MEET RAYNE MACPHEE:
Rayne MacPhee is a printmaker and beekeeper from Greenville, South Carolina now living in Charlottesville. She is the Spring 2019 Artist-in-Residence.
She grew up dividing her time between keeping bees with her father and painting murals with her mother, a mural artist and therapist. She holds a BFA in Printmaking from the College of Charleston, where she spent much of her time learning how to blend her passions of beekeeping and creation into a cohesive body of work. During this time, she received the Duval Endowment Scholarship and the Dean’s Excellence Award for Studio Art.
When Rayne isn’t creating art, she is teaching art and music to children at UVA Child Development Center. In addition to teaching, she is also the project manager of a mural project in Greenville, SC that paints one mural each year with the help of the community, local artists, and most importantly: the students of a local elementary school.
Artwork images courtesy of the artist.
This Welcome Gallery Exhibit Opening Reception is free and open to the public. All ages are welcome.
Located at 114 3rd St. NE, Welcome Gallery is downtown, storefront art space in Charlottesville, VA, run by New City Arts Initiative, a non-profit community arts organization. This same location houses NCAI staff offices and a studio space.
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