Ava Roth is an encaustic painter, embroiderer, and mixed-media artist based in Toronto. She also happens to be a beekeeper, and is currently working on a collaborative art project with her honeybees. From this project, Roth and her bees are producing a body of work entitled the Honeycomb Collection.
In this interview with Art the Science, Roth describes how this project began, what it means to make art alongside honeybees, and the impact she hopes to make.
What is the Honeycomb Collection?
This collection of work is the result of a collaboration with thousands of local honeybees. Each piece begins in my studio with the creation of a mixed-media collage and then moves into a hive for honeybees to embed in comb.
When and why did you start working with honeybees?
I started working directly with bees about three years ago, after working as an encaustic artist for several years. Being immersed in wax gave me tremendous appreciation for it as a medium, and it was not long before I began to learn more about bees themselves. The more I learned, the more deeply I became involved.
“Being immersed in wax gave me tremendous appreciation for it as a medium”
Did you always intend to combine your passion for art and beekeeping?
I did not set out to combine art and beekeeping—the practices came together slowly and organically. Their synthesis has been an extremely rewarding experience.
Has collaborating with honeybees presented you with any surprises?
The process of making visual art with honeybees has been full of surprises. Because bees in this area only make comb in the warm summer months, work on this project is conducted on their schedule. This is determined by environmental factors, such as sun, pollen conditions, etc. The necessity for me to slow down and synchronize my work to the cycles of the seasons has had a profoundly calming effect on me.
“The necessity for me to slow down and synchronize my work to the cycles of the seasons has had a profoundly calming effect on me.”
What impact do you hope to make with the Honeycomb Collection?
Honeybees are often considered a harbinger of the health of our planet, and their mass global disappearance is interpreted by many as an indicator of our environment’s peril. The aim of this project is to explore the boundaries of where humans collide with the natural environment and imagine a more beautiful outcome of this encounter.
McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman