Bee made of lighter and darker colored copper wire

CREATORS – Charmaine Lurch

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Charmaine Lurch

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

It’s an interesting question because, for me, there has always been a pairing of science and art, the boundaries at times indistinguishable. As a child, I noticed things—I paid attention to small movements, the quality of light, the colour of rock and trees, the soil and water. This made me want to experiment and play with materials and imagine and make things.

Irregular 3D ovals of different colors (green, orange, blue, brown) made of wire attached to a wall. A ceiling light shines on them to create shadows behind them.
Connectivity installation (2021) by Charmaine Lurch, 11’ x 11’, mixed wire. Photo credit: C. Lurch.
Close-up image of irregular 3D ovals of different colors (green, orange, blue, brown) made of wire attached to a wall. A ceiling light shines on them to create shadows behind them.
Pollen Grains (2021) by Charmaine Lurch, varying sizes, mixed wire. Photo credit: C. Lurch.

“For me, there has always been a pairing of science and art, the boundaries at times indistinguishable.”

Charmaine Lurch
Close-up image of irregular 3D ovals of different colors (green, orange, blue, brown) made of wire attached to a wall. A ceiling light shines on them to create shadows behind them.
Pollen Grains (2021) by Charmaine Lurch, varying sizes, mixed wire. Photo credit: C. Lurch.

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

I think about the connections between humans, inner/outer environments, plants and animals, and the spaces we inhabit. Biology, ethnography, entomology, and environmental science all deeply inform my practice. Also fascinating is the micro world. To look closely at microscopic pollen grains and cells is a wonder that leads me to create work that shifts both scale and perspective and reveals things that might move the viewer to take notice.

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

I consider all my materials as textural messengers, be they charcoal, wire, or paint. Wire takes up space, is a drawing in space, and moves through space. The formations I create cast shadows, trace landscapes, and act as a means to mark the interior or exterior of things.

Colorful paint dots over top of wire shaped into a person's figure.
The Phenomenal Henrietta Lacks (2015) by Charmaine Lurch, 6” x 48”, acrylic and wire on canvas. Photo credit: T. Hafkenschied.
Two people looking at an artwork. Top of the work has colorful paint dots over top of wire shaped into a person's figure. The bottom is made of different sizes of Petri dishes with words on the bottom.
The Phenomenal Henrietta Lacks (2015) by Charmaine Lurch, painting / reflective panel / Petri dishes. Photo credit: C. Lurch.
Close-up image of Petri dishes with different words and colors on the bottoms.
The Phenomenal Henrietta Lacks (2015) by Charmaine Lurch, Petri dish detail with work. Photo credit: C. Lurch.

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

I am most proud of my series Wild Bees (2012 – present). Rendered large, the variety of unique species differences are visualized using coloured wire and other materials that help to create complex wire formations. The invisibility of bees and their critical position in the survival of humans is brought to the forefront by the magnification of their size. Their shadows offer a subtle link to the fragility of the survival of wild bees and the constant threat of bio collapse. My exhibit at Riverbrink Museum in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region in Ontario was a chance to showcase my work exactly as I imagined it to be. Often, I’ve found due to the parameters of the space or funding, it’s hard to fully bring work to fruition. With this show, I was able to expand on previous themes of visibility/invisibility, allowing the viewer a chance to encounter a fly-by of bees, serving to remind us of our interconnections, food production, land, movement and migration, and space and place.

Large bees made of wire hanging on a white wall. A spotlight shines on each bee to create shadows on the wall.
Wild Bees (2012 – present) by Charmaine Lurch, installation at Critical Mass, Art Gallery of Guelph, Guelph University. Photo credit: C. Lurch.

“To look closely at microscopic pollen grains and cells is a wonder that leads me to create work that shifts both scale and perspective and reveals things that might move the viewer to take notice.”

Charmaine Lurch
Close-up of one bee made of wire hanging on a white wall.
Rusty Patch Bumble Bee (2017) by Charmaine Lurch, 40” x 30″ x 16”, mixed wire. Photo credit: C. Lurch.

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

Laurence Packer, a melittologist in York’s Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, has been a wonderful resource. His presentations and talks will make you love bees—wild bees, specifically. He has been very generous with his sharing of knowledge and supporting my work. There’s been a lovely collaboration and exchange there. Packer Labs, located at York University, has been a wealth of information and resource for me as I have delved deeper into entomology and all that it holds.

Scholar Katherine McKittrick has also been invaluable to my work. She is a professor of gender studies and cultural geography at Queens University. Her work connecting Black life and movement globally provide nuanced conversations that help me to re-read and examine my thinking and artmaking. McKittrick, in her book, Dear Science and Other Stories, 2021, writes about the materiality of charcoal wood and paint in my work and also the ideas embedded in my drawings.

SciArt is an emerging term related to combining art and science. How would you define it?

I don’t see it as a combination, I just don’t see any separation between the two. Both require careful attention and curiosity.

Bee made of wire with a bright red abdomen.
Cuckoo – Sweat Bee (2014) by Charmaine Lurch, 29” x 16” x 13”, mixed wire and red and brown wool. Photo Credit: T. Hafkenschied.

For more by Charmaine Lurch, visit her website, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

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About the Author
McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie Prillaman

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