Whitney Nye, Daniela Molnar, and Pattie Baker: Pollinators in Visual Art



This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Winged is a literary anthology, and we’re excited to feature written work about humans and bees from a wide range of artists. But there are also many artists creating visual work in response to pollinators– their beauty, their industry, and the unfolding story of their decline. While we can’t include visual art in our printed anthology, we want to feature it here. Below, the stories behind three artists and their paintings.
Whitney Nye’s work as a visual artist draws on pattern, texture, and movement.  She is especially interested in patterns of repetition, which is evident in her sensitive honeycomb-inspired canvas Honey, currently on display at the Portland Airport. Nye was gracious enough to let us showcase this piece on the blog, and she describes the process in detail below. For more on her work, please visit her website. Currently, she’s also at work on a fascinating collaborative project at the city dump: GLEAN. Nye and other participating artists are busy gleaning materials from the Metro Central Transfer Station, to make art that prompts others to think about their consumption habits. The finished work will be displayed this fall. Honey


Whitney writes:
“This piece titled ‘Honey’ is made from old sewing pattern tissue.  The pink section of the piece is colored with gouache, and the natural colored sections of the piece is the actual color of the tissue paper. The paper was then cut into circles and glued on one circle at a time.  The layering created a honeycomb-like pattern and reminded me of eating honeycomb when I was a child.  The process of collaging on such a large scale is somewhat difficult, physically getting into the middle of the panel.  I worked on this flat, over a period of a month or so.  A meditative and somewhat obsessive process.”
Daniela Molnar created the beautiful images of bees on our landing page and “About” page. Her generous, curious spirit has led her to create an impressive body of work that explores the intersections of art, culture, and nature. She’s an active public artist engaged in a wide range of solitary and collaborative projects, and she’s also a dedicated teacher. See more of her work here, and check out her upcoming project Summer Field Studies at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. Below, she reflects on the story behind her piece Mimicry, Dispersal II.mimicry,-dispersal-II-web
Daniela writes: “This painting is part of a series that focuses on the fluid movement, as well as the precise structure of flowers. These works are both color field paintings and botanical studies, exploring how patterns in nature are perceived, named and understood. The works question habits of naming and perception — when is a flower no longer a flower? When does a flower cease to be a noun and become a verb? Envisioning nature as an interconnected process rather than a collection of distinct objects highlights the delicate web necessary to sustain the lives of all earth’s inhabitants, including bees.”
When Pattie Palmer Baker submitted work for Winged this winter, she wondered if we were also interested in visual art. A poet, collagist, and calligrapher, she told us about a piece she had created in response to last June’s Safari-related bee kill in Wilsonville. Her calligraphic style is based on the 8th century Carolingian alphabet and her paste paper process is adapted from a 17th century decorated paper technique. We’re grateful for Baker’s work and for her support of this project.
4. 50,000 Bumblebees Die_PattiePalmer-Baker-1
Pattie writes: “Earlier this year up to fifty thousand bumblebees were poisoned by an insecticide not to be used in the presence of bees. The image of the bumblebees falling, scrabbling, dying on the asphalt haunted me–  so much so that I wrote a poem and created two artworks to express my outrage and grief. Most of us are aware that the pollinating ability of bees is profoundly necessary, but personally and anthropomorphically I grieved because I see them as uniquely beautiful beings working unfailingly for the good of the many.”

A Story of Flying

Joseph Campbell used the term apotheosis to describe the burgeoning of consciousness that the story’s mythical hero experiences after defeating her foe, or ghost, or predator – the kind of awareness that feels feathery and weightless, as if flying. For the last few months while writing my submission for Winged, I have been considering how stories function as a form of such apotheosis.

Stories are consciousness and, as many have said before me, they are living things. Stories evolve as and when we do. They function to elevate and advance our humanity, and illustrate aspects of our human spirit. They heal, guide, explain, agitate, and invigorate us. They convince us of the impossible and awaken us to what is possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in being a child of the eighties and remembering the first time I inherently understood that stories do live was thanks to Michael Ende’s Falkor and The Neverending Story.

Prolific novelist Alice Hoffman says each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. Whether we are writing or reading them, stories change us. They make us clutch our throats to catch our breath, and feel fire in our bellies to fight for something we believe is just. Through stories, we awaken, we remember, we love, and we grieve. Through stories we discover what has been hidden from our view and are reminded what we care about and who we are when we are too busy/tired/distracted to remember. Stories fill us with uncapped skies, which we can float through at our will. Stories are hope – recognising the call to action within stories is in itself a hopeful act, for within each story hides an incantation for change. Novelist Mohsin Hamid said storytelling alters the storyteller. Or writer, or reader. And a story is altered by being told. Or written, or read.

I caught up with a dear friend last week, a fellow writer of far more experience and acclaim than myself. She asked me about the writing routine I’m trying to re-establish now that I’m back in the UK from a lengthy trip to my homeland Australia. She sat quietly, listening deeply. When our conversation turned to the novel I am writing she said to me, “Let’s be honest. There are enough books in the world for everyone to read. But if you don’t write your story, here is the non-negotiable truth: it won’t ever exist.”

This non-negotiable truth is why the existence of an anthology of stories like Winged is so important. Winged is our specific and artistic response to the bee and pollinator crisis. It carries within it impassioned stories issuing calls to action in varying forms. Without such books as Winged, our stories, our burgeoning consciousnesses, would not ‘exist’. They would remain untold, unpainted, unwritten, uncomposed, and unexpressed. The power within each of our stories would remain dormant, and we would never realise the potential of what telling them could possibly achieve.

Each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. The worth of our stories is in sharing them.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver once asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, and precious life?” To answer I would be proud to present Ms Oliver with Winged, an anthology of stories for change. A lesson in how stories can teach us to fly.

Photo: “A Story About Flying” by Ryan Conners

About the author

HRinglandHolly Ringland grew up on the southeast Queensland coast in Australia. When she was nine her family lived on the road for two years in North America, travelling between national parks, inspiring in Holly what would become a lifelong fascination with different cultures, landscapes, and stories. In her early twenties she moved inland to Australia’s Central Desert where she spent four years working for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and living in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu. In 2009 Holly moved to the UK and gained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. She is now working on her Creative Writing PhD with Griffith University and King’s College London. Holly’s research territory is the symbiosis between the creative writing process, ghosts, place, and memory, amongst other ideas that get left at the door of the garden shed in which she is writing her prose fiction submission for Winged.

More at hollyringland.com.

More Than Honey

From Swiss director Markus Imhoof, the film More Than Honey features macro-lens footage of bees and explores the fate of honey bee colonies around the world. Reviewers seem perplexed by the film’s tone, which they describe as less alarmist than previous documentaries Vanishing of the Bees and Queen of the Sun. Having missed this summer’s screening here in Portland, we’re considering hosting a screening so we can find out for ourselves. Meantime, you can watch the trailer here.

“Write to the future”

We really loved Kathleen Dean Moore and Scott Slovic’s recent blog post for Orion, “7 Ways to Write to the Future.”

It’s a call for writers to step into the urgency of the moment, by creating work that both addresses and is worthy of the gravity of global warming. The call to action echoes our own sentiments about the pollinator crisis.

They write:

“..there is essential work to be done also in our roles as academics and writers, empowered by creative imagination, moral clarity, and the strength of true witness. Write as if your reader were dying, Annie Dillard advised. “What would you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” …Surely in a world dangerously slipping away, we need courageously and honestly to ask again the questions every author asks: Who is my audience—now, today, in this world? What is my purpose?

Moore and Slovic lay out seven possible forms this kind of writing might take, and make space for many more interpretations.

We’re energized by this brief, powerful editorial and excited to see how writers respond, in the pages of Orion and elsewhere. Write to the future. Use your artistic gifts to tell this generation and the next why pollinators matter.

MegNewellbeephoto: Meg Newell