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Bricoluer's Apiary Statement

Bricoluer's Apiary

The painting series “Bricoluer’s Apiary”, was created over a period of 20 years. Using beeswax from my apiary, mixed with dry pigments (encaustic), oil paints, powdered ginseng and silverpoint drawing; the paintings explore the similarities, and habits of domestic honeybees, and human everyday activities, comprising domestic life. The focus of these paintings is Women and Labor.

Utilitarian Quilt Inspiration


Inspiration for the canvases were loosely derived from the repetition of forms found in a simple utilitarian quilt that was pieced and sewn together by my grandmother Jeannette Townsend in the 1960s.


The habit of using discarded clothing once worn by her children and grand-children to make a useful blanket, was a practical and creative way to reuse the fiber material resources available to her in her rural environment.


In this series of paintings, the canvases are sectioned off like parts of a quilt and images are “pieced and sewn together”. Stripes and plaids link images, while polka dots and honeycomb hold images.


The “bricoleur”, Claude Levi-Strauss wrote, “is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks. Her/his universe of instruments is closed and the rules of her game are always to make do with, “whatever is at hand”, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite.


The “bricoleur” addresses herself to a collection of oddments left over from human endeavors, that is, only a sub-set of the culture.”

“Images”, Levi-Strauss continues, “are fixed, linked in a single way to the mental act which accompanies them. Signs, and images which have acquired significance, may still lack comprehension.

The “bricoleur” principally derives her poetry from the fact that she does not confine herself to accomplishment and execution: she “speaks” not only with things, but also through the medium of things: giving an account of her personality and life by the choices she makes between the limited possibilities.

The “bricoleur” may not ever complete her purpose but she always puts something of herself into it.”

Bricoluer’s Images

The finite vocabulary of images used in the paintings are recovered from the remains and debris of events from my personal life and environment. “Des bribes et des morceaux” or odds and ends in English are the material evidence and history of my life.


Each painting explores a different aspect of human domesticity and the correlation to the honeybee life-cycle.

Images are painted as loosely stitched together fabric pieces. The canvases are sectioned off like parts of a quilt and images are “pieced and sewn together”. Stripes and plaids link images, while polka dots and honeycomb hold images. Bees fly freely between the spaces.

Toddler shoes

Using my daughters outgrown, discarded boots and shoes, as images, her childhood shoes become a symbol for the repetition of everyday activities comprising domestic life.


While children are learning to walk there is a tremendous effort in making, and creating a steady pace. They also represent the common folk saying “putting one foot in front of the other” which refers to the act of getting things done.

Utilitarian Quilt


Cutting and sewing squares of fabric together to make a blanket. Repurposing materials to create something useful. Honeybees also cut out pieces of beeswax, sometimes to upcycle in another part of the hive to conserve energy.

Socks & Mittens

Knitted garments refer to the repetition of domestic activities, and the cross-cultural act of using knitting needles and fiber to create a useful piece of clothing. Knitting a child a pair of mittens. The child then losing the mittens, and then knitting another pair of mittens. The rows of white socks represent the endless task and repeated motions of matching socks and folding laundry.

Honeybee Hive

Activities in the domestic honeybee hive are hinted at in each canvas. The life cycle of a worker bee begins by first learning to clean out the honey comb they hatch from.


Next, they move on to learning how to create and build the honeycomb.

Finally, they leave the hive to collect pollen, and nectar to be made into food and resources for the hive.


For me there is a human correlation in the cycle of learning to clean, “putting your toys away”, building useful skills in the safety of a home, and then leaving the home to collect resources outside of the “hive” to ensure the health and wellbeing of the family.


There is joy in the repetition of building honey comb and working together. There is happiness in the honeybee waggle-dance. Which way? How far?

The Crown


I actually resisted the use of this image for some time, but felt the need to explore the roll of the ‘Queen Mother” and her solitary roll in perpetuating the species.  


The repetition of the queen honeybee laying eggs is an exhausting business. She completely sacrifices herself and is not allowed to leave the hive, unless the hive has determined she needs to be replaced and begins raising a new queen.  A swarm ensues once a quorum is reached and she is obligated to take flight with half of the hive, leaving the remaining bees to raise a new queen. This activity with so much violence and drama needed to be explored. 


Life outside of the hive in the wild is marked by unpredictability-much like our human existence. By placing the image of a crown at the bottom of the canvas, surrounded by empty glass jars in one painting and baseballs in the other, the queen appears to be assimilated and included in the life of the hive.


The baseball images in the paintings represent both the larval stage of the honeybee, and the American tradition and rituals of baseball. The repetition of the queen bee laying the egg in the center of a hexagon, and the discipline of a pitcher’s throw over the center of a pentagon, have an equal space in the universe; which results in finding the “sweet spot”. The repetition of both actions represented by the baseballs which become plump round larva, crowding the cells on two canvases.


The baseball’s repeated journey over Homeplate, the rhythm of the human heart beat, and the queen's dedication to her hive, are all related in these paintings. 

After a heavy frost the asters, and goldenrod will no longer be available for pollen, and this signals to the hive that the reserves need to be protected for the hive to sustain themselves through the long winter that lies ahead. The queen will stop laying eggs, and the drones (male) will be chased from the hive by guard bees (female) posted at the entrance of the hive.  At this same time the baseball season is winding down, as the world series is being played in America.  

As the darkness and cold weather begin, the hive will form a cluster around the queen to keep her safe and warm through the long winter season.

Empty glass jars

The glass jars represent the resources that are required to live; and a way to keep these resources safe. Honeybees need a source of fresh water. Water is required to cool the hive and process the nectar to make honey. Humans are also dependent on safe water sources and healthy food supplies. The empty glass jars are waiting for honey reserves for honeybees, and humans.

My apiary never over winters on sugar water. I feel that this common practice is cruel and greedy. The energy and time the honeybees require to produce a winter supply is significant. Their supply of honey is their primary source of nutrition and energy for the long winter season in Vermont. Honeybees have no reliable flower sources to collect from for several months. Asters, Japanese Knotweed, and Goldenrod are their final resources in October before the heavy frost arrives. They will need to winter over until March when, insignificant flowers bloom on Maple tree tops. Some hives make just enough for the winter, and some hives are ambitious and create a surplus.

If honey winters over unused, it will crystalize. As a beekeeper, I remove only the surplus honey for extraction for my family and a few lucky friends.

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