Images courtesy Jodi Reeb
The fate of our pollinators, and thus the world’s entire food system, has become an issue that many artists are taking up with fervor: How to express the need for thriving native ecosystems, which provide the food and shelter that birds, bees, and sundry insects need to survive and ensure fruit and vegetables reach our tables? While some reach for politics and polemics, others focus on the ways in which their materials and subject matter can be lent to the cause.
Last year, Jodi Reeb, who has long worked with encaustic (heated beeswax), turned her attention to the landscapes at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. After taking photographs of the Arb’s flora—“from the bee’s perspective,” she says—Reeb created a series of mixed-media landscapes using encaustic paint to create multi-layered (in materiality and meaning) artworks. In their detail and delicacy, these works convey the ephemeral nature of our planet and the care we must take to ensure their—and our—survival.
The series, “A Different View,” will be exhibited in the Arb’s Reedy Gallery from January 8 through March 11. An opening reception will be held Saturday, January 12, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. In conjunction with the exhibition, Reeb will teach a free monotype printmaking workshop at the Arboretum open to the public on Saturday, February 9 at 1:30-3:30 p.m.
The exhibition demonstrates a new artistic direction for her, Reeb says, “combining encaustic painting to produce mixed-media works that have the luminosity of beeswax while maintaining the graphic nature of photography. It was natural to partner with the Arboretum as a sanctuary for bees with several hives, acres of diverse pollinator habitat, and an outreach education program partnered with the University of Minnesota.”
“Working with beeswax as my primary painting medium has me very concerned about the recent decline of the pollinator population,” she adds. “Modern encaustic painting is primarily composed of 85 percent natural wax, produced by honeybees. There are over 400 species of native bees in Minnesota and pollinators are declining at alarming rates due to lack of habitat and pesticide use.” Reeb developed this body of artwork after receiving the 2018 Artist’s Initiative Grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board. The mystery and mood they reflect will cause viewers to pause and reflect on the ways in which pollinators add bounty and beauty to our world.