Artspots

Aganetha Dyck reveals how she works with bees to create strange and wonderful art

You'd have to 'bee' an artist to make something this beautiful. Watch this video from the CBC vaults.

You'd have to 'bee' an artist to make something this beautiful. Watch this video from the CBC vaults

Aganetha Dyck: Masked Ball Series—Chess (Photo Credit: Peter Dyck)

From 1997 to 2008, CBC's Artspots profiled more than 300 Canadian artists from across the country. We're sharing re-edited cuts of the vintage videos this winter.

Name: Aganetha Dyck

Homebase: Winnipeg

Artspots appearance: 2006

12 years ago...

Aganetha Dyck wasn't working alone, but with an entire team of natural-born architects — possibly thousands and thousands of them.

Bees — just ordinary honey bees — helped create the honeycomb-covered shoes and skates and football helmets that appear in this clip, which aired on CBC the year before Dyck received the Governor General's Award.

[Bees] create the most beautiful environment that I've ever seen. [...] You have to be an artist to be able to do that.- Aganetha Dyck , artist

The artist might take an ordinary found object, "paint" it with bee-friendly pheromones and then place it in the hive, trusting her collaborators to do their waxy thing. You'll see them at work in the video, and in some cases, a sculpture might develop over the course of years. 

This cross-species collaboration continued for decades, producing whimsical work that winks at the delicate link between humans and the natural world. Her sculptures can be found at the National Gallery of Canada, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Dyck talks about her relationship with bees in the video.

"The bees have the skills of an architect," she says. "It's their ability to construct up, down, in three dimensions that interested me. They create the most beautiful environment that I've ever seen. I mean, it's just absolutely gorgeous. You have to be an artist to be able to do that."

"We're so meshed in what we do, the bees and I. They work by instinct and I work intuitively. And I'm trying to figure out whether there's a difference."

"I feel close to them when I'm working in the hive because of the warmth they emit and the sound. They seem to be so — such a caring community," says Dyck, emotion in her voice. "I'm really concerned for them. 95 per cent of wild honeybees have disappeared. When you're so close to a creature that's so important to the world and you know how quickly they could disappear, and what that would do to humanity, that's a relationship that's pretty precious."

Watch the clip:

"Bees have the skills of an architect. They create the most beautiful environment I've ever seen. You have to be an artist to do that." 1:28

Today...

This magical 20-year partnership was forced to change when Dyck developed a dangerous allergy to bee stings in 2009, but the artist — now 80 — remains active as ever, and a new solo exhibition of her work is now on at Edmonton's dc3 Art Projects.

You'll find plenty of work that's been co-signed by the hive, so to speak. Several thrift store finds transformed by bees, and waxy drawings as well, appear in the show alongside a series that's been Dyck's more recent focus.

For her series Shrunken Crochet, Dyck fabricates people-sized woolen shapes, which are then shrunk down into fuzzy sculptures.

Per the gallery: "Humour pervades Dyck's transformation of objects as the artist reflects the conditions of life in general and what it means to be human — to persist, to cope and to transform the world around you." See it to April 14.

Aganetha Dyck: Shrunken Crochet, 2013. (William Eakin)
Aganetha Dyck: Queen (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Aganetha Dyck: Masked Ball Series—Arrival (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Aganetha Dyck: Sports Night in Canada (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Aganetha Dyck: Clear Platform Stiletto Shoe (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Sculpture by Aganetha Dyck. (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Aganetha Dyck: Masked Ball Series—Promenade Princess (Photo: Peter Dyck)
Aganetha Dyck. Installation view at dc3 Art Projects. (Courtesy of dc3 and Lisa Kehler Art + Projects)
Aganetha Dyck. Installation view at dc3 Art Projects. (Courtesy of dc3 and Lisa Kehler Art + Projects)
Aganetha Dyck. Installation view at dc3 Art Projects. (Courtesy of dc3 and Lisa Kehler Art + Projects)
Aganetha Dyck. Installation view at dc3 Art Projects. (Courtesy of dc3)