Birds, bees, butterflies and bats.
About 35 percent of the world’s food crops and 75 percent of flowering plants depend on these winged creatures to reproduce. These pollinators have become increasingly threatened by human action; witness bee colony collapse disorder. Beehives have been disappearing at nearly twice the normal rate of loss, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
516 ARTS has gathered artists from New Mexico and across the globe for “Cross Pollination” in a response to this crisis. The exhibition also reveals a cross pollination between art and science.
More than 250 species of bees buzz through New Mexico, according to exhibition curator and beekeeper Valerie Roybal. Honeybees are not native to America; settlers brought them here from Russia and Italy. But Native Americans kept bees because they needed to grow crops, she said.
“They were on the planet before us,” Roybal said. “There were paleolithic bees 40 million years ago. Plants, flowers and bees evolved together.”
Santa Fe installation artists Susanna Carlisle and Bruce Hamilton created “Vanishing II,” a tribute to honeybees. Their installation duplicates the experience of being orbited by honeybees through video, sound, processing and projection in a pollination poem.
“It really has to do with our concern about the demise of bees – climate change and pesticides and commercial intervention,” Carlisle said. “The bee colonies are fading all over the world. We wanted not to hit people over the head, but to increase awareness.”
The installation features four videos projected within elliptical glass shapes.
“You’re looking kind of in a fishbowl,” Hamilton said.
Photographer and art teacher Kelly Eckel has researched and collaged photographs in her “Morphogenic” series of hybrid wings, a mosaic of eyes, larvae, wings and microscopic images of pollen.
A visit to her Albuquerque studio reveals a collection of fossilized rocks, shells, bones, cocoons and enlarged images of wings. A stack of Plexiglas boxes encases found moths, bumblebees and crysalis. The photographer shoots specimens at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and at the University of New Mexico.
In “Bilateral Modification” she pieced together bee wings, butterfly wings and moth wings to create a graceful medley in black and white. She jigsaws the individual body parts into a collage of fantastical shapes.
“I look at the world in a broader sense,” Eckels said. “I look at the revolving mangrove. The tree of life is not so much a tree; it’s a mangrove. It’s entangled. We’re kind of a collage of what’s happened before.”
Another image resembles an archipelago of forms and textures quilted from bees’ eyes, water, dried sunflowers and grapes. A third reveals a moth’s proboscis, butterfly wings, a wasp’s nest.
In her classes, Eckel asks kindergartners to examine insects through her microscope.
“I’ve given my students loupes because I want them to understand pollinators,” she said. “I’m hoping they don’t want to kill things so much afterward.”