Titled "Miss Bee Haven," it anchors the half-acre bee garden, which was installed in the fall of 2009 and named for its primary donor.
The sculpture is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She 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.
Miss Bee Haven, appropriately placed beneath an almond tree in June, 2010, is no lightweight. Anchored with 200 pounds of cement and with six bronze legs drilled into the pedestal, this worker bee is destined to stay put—unlike the thousands of bees that forage from the hives at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Billick used lost wax bronze casting to craft the six legs, which extend from the thorax to rest on a ceramic “purple dome” aster, fabricated by Davis artist Sarah Rizzo. The purple dome aster is among the flowers in the garden.
She created the double set of translucent wings with three sheets of fiberglass. The result: wings that are fragile-looking and true to life, but strong.
During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick told us back in 2010. For inspiration and detail, she visited the Laidlaw facility apiary, 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. It was fun and satisfying to do. I learned a ton.”
Billick toyed with a scientific career before opting for a career that fuses art with science. She received her bachelor of science degree in genetics in 1973 and her master's degree in fine arts in 1977, studying art with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Billick traces her interest in an art career to the mid-1970s when then Gov. Jerry Brown supported the arts and offered the necessary resources to encourage the growth of art. He reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent.
The mid-1990s is when Billick and Ullman began teaching classes that fused art with science; those classes led to the formation of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion.
The garden, maintained and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and managed by Christine Casey. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.
Meanwhile, "Miss Bee Haven" is likely the most photographed bee in the garden. Visitors pull out their cell phones to take a selfie. Children love to touch it and help the younger ones climb to the ledge. Bee scientists marvel at the anatomical accuracy, right down to pollen baskets and stinger.
Then just add bees. Ceramic bees.
Northern California artist Donna Billick and UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman, co-founders and co-directors of the 16-year-old UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, have launched a hands-on educational, bee-awareness program called "Miss Bee Haven" in which participants sculpt ceramic bees for their garden or home.
"We're trying to make a difference in supporting hard-working bee populations around the world by creating a permanent ceramic tribute to them," said Billick, who is also a beekeeper. She keeps four bee hives on her property just outside the city of Davis.
Ullman is the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a professor of entomology. Billick, a self-described rock artist, directs the Billick Rock Art and Todos Artes, creating large-scale public art.
They're inviting people of all ages, from children to senior citizens, to sculpt a bee with clay and glaze as a "handmade tribute to our pollinators, the bees."
She added: "This is a strategy where learning about bees is passed onto a community of people by a team of artists and scientists that use the medium of clay to teach. The intention is to assist the learners to make a beautiful clay sculpture of a bee."
The bees are structurally correct, from the wax glands to the pollen basket to the sting. Participants form a bee with clay and paint it. Then the bees are fired in a ceramic kiln to be "a permanent rock-hard tribute to our bee pollinators." A metal rod holds the bee upright for placement in a flower bed, potted plant or vase.
"They're beautiful," said Queen Turner, head of the beekeeping section at the Ministry of Agriculture in Botswana. Turner, who recently completed a 10-month academic mission as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, found time to create two bees at Billick's studio before heading back to her native country. She treasures them.
As she was molding them, Turner said she felt "one" with the bees.
Billick, the artist who created the six-foot-long worker bee sculpture that anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, said the Miss Bee Haven project "serves as a response" to the colony collapse disorder (CCD) that is adversely affecting the entire world.
"Our relationship with our bee populations is in danger and in need of attention; bee awareness is our mission," Billick said. "The mission is to identify with bee culture inside the hive, and the bees outside the hive--the field bees that serve as pollinators."
To increase public awareness of honey bees, Billick and Ullman are providing the ceramic bee-making sessions to community organizations, groups, clubs and schools or "basically, anyone who wants to make a bee."
To date, the reaction has been fantastic, Billick said. "It is an educational experience and one that creates heartfelt awareness and appreciation for our smallest agricultural workers, the honey bees."
Some of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program's work, fusing art with science, graces the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The half-acre bee friendly garden is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Laidlaw research facility.
More information on setting up workshops to create ceramic bees is available from Billick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 219-5918 or Ullman at email@example.com.
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.