- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Undergraduate degree in genetics? Check.
Master’s degree in fine arts? Check.
Scientist and artist? Check.
Such is the case with scientist-artist Donna Billick, who created the “Miss Bee Haven” six-foot bee sculpture in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis.
Miss Bee Haven?
“I like to play with words,” said Billick, who received both her degrees from UC Davis and then embarked on fusing art with science by teaching classes at UC Davis.
The sculpture, funded by Wells Fargo, graces the half-acre bee friendly garden, located on the Department of Entomology grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
“The bee sculpture is beautiful and provides the perfect focal point for the garden,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology who oversees the garden. “On top of that it accurately represents a worker bee and provides an educational component as well as an aesthetic one.”
Kimsey, who is master-planning the grand opening celebration of the garden, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, said the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven “is sure to become a campus destination.”
The key goals of the haven, Kimsey said, are to provide a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
It’s quite appropriate that the bee sculpture is beneath an almond tree in the garden. California has some 700,000 thousand acres of almonds; each acre requires two bee hives for pollination.
Billick, who worked on the bee from her Davis studio, Billick Rock Art, is the co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Billick founded the program in 2006 with entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A self-described “rock artist,” Billick designed, fabricated and constructed Miss Bee Haven, using rebar, chicken wire, sand, cement, tile, bronze, steel, grout, fiberglass and handmade ceramic pieces. The project took her four months to complete.
“During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick said. For inspiration and detail, she visited the apiary in back of the Laidlaw facility, read about the functions of bees, and held the thoughts close. “It was not about expressing anything other than the beeness. I have a lot of respect for bees.”
A 35-year artist, she studied with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Her work on the UC Davis campus includes the colorful Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility’s ceramic sign that features DNA symbols and almond blossoms.
Scientist? Check. Artist? Check.
Scientist-artist? Most definitely.