Apologies to Emily Dickinson for using a line from one of her poems, but it pretty much sums up the ache I have when I haven’t had a project to find myself lost in. Each time I sit in my little corner studio, Bach on Pandora, brushes clean and waiting, paint tubes all lined up, I hope this will be the day when I catch the breeze and fly. Sometimes, as with the quince or with the seed pods, it is just practice and preparation for the day when my wings unfurl.
For the longest time, I’ve been working on a “prequel” to my painting of a bee beard. I got serious as my 49th birthday approached. I found that I was industrious about the task — not getting stuck in old ways of over-thinking the concept, or of perfectionism about the line or form, or becoming bored by the tasks I had laid out for myself day by day. I just got to work and when I was tired, I laid down the brush. I was…well, like a bee. The result is here.
When I did let myself ruminate on bees and bee beards, I couldn’t remember why I wanted to paint them at all. I’m sure it originally related to the concept of apples and honey that I had painted as I worked through the Eve and the Garden series so long ago. Just wanting to keep that alive. The bee beard painted itself almost, and remained an oddity — a question mark. It needed a prequel. Here’s the painting of the bee beard:
I looked up the meaning of the symbol of bees in the illustrated encyclopedia of traditional symbols and began to get a murky sign from the universe about why I had chosen the subject, and to my sensibilities they seem holiday oriented. The bee is a sign of immortality, rebirth, industry, order, purity and a soul. In Christianity, the bee is a symbol Mary, mother of Jesus; in Hinduism, the bee on a lotus is the symbol of Vishnu.
The symbol of the ancient Greek goddess Demeter is the bee. She is sometimes called the “pure Mother Bee,” and the Greeks worshipped her as the bringer of the harvest. In ancient times to whisper something to a bee would bring the message to the spirit world.
The way these paintings came to me felt as though they were a whisper to me from a place of collective and universal consciousness. I found joy in the process of painting them and then in thinking about what I had painted, rather than what I would paint.
Bees, I’m sure, don’t think about the honey either. Hope I can carry this into the new year.
And now, a beautiful poem about bee beards given to me after she saw the strange bee beard painting by my dear friend and amazing poet and artist Marie Pavlicek-Werhli:
The Girl with Bees in Her Hair
Eleanor Rand Wilner, “The Girl with Bees in Her Hair” from The Girl with Bees in Her Hair. Copyright © 2004 by Eleanor Rand Wilner. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.