by Caroline Nevin
I adore flappers & bees so it’s no coincidence that elements of bees and vintage girly delights are juxtaposed, and in most cases combined in many of my pieces. The intention is to create a conversational timeline between the past and the present and make evident the parallels that still exist today as we continue to adapt and respond to nature through social response. Here are some connections and parallels I’ve perceived between the importance of the work of honeybees, and the work of women in the 1920s.
Historically, dancing has and continues to be used as a popular form of expression and as an indicator of social behavior – as a sacred ritual, as a form of communication for social change and courtship activity, or just to let loose, dancing provides us with important cues that can actually be key to our survival, providing an evolutionary advantage. No one knows this better than honeybees, especially currently. Honeybees (scouts that just happen to be female and are known for their sociability) use the waggle dance for resourceful foraging by indicating to the hive where nectar and pollen can be found in abundance and also where the best new possible nesting locations are. This dance saves the whole hive valuable time and energy and in essence is a harmonious nurturing and preserving of the community. This is especially important now, given the struggles honeybees are facing in recent years through Colony Collapse Disorder after thriving for 50 million years, as a result of current farming practices specifically through the use of pesticides.
When I contemplate the roaring twenties, I automatically think of a group of gadabout flappers kicking up their heels and dancing The Charleston, much like a swarm of bees. It is the epitome and image of the liberated woman. Women were evolving from the strictures of the Victorian era. In that time, women were seen as chattels of their husbands. The flappers began to emulate the freedom that men had so long enjoyed. They were seen in “speak easy” bars, they smoked, danced and engaged in ‘unmentionables’. They cut their hair short in the flapper “bob.” Until then, women had long hair that they wore up, restricted in a bun. The flappers showed their knees, as long hemlines were replaced in favour of short, loose dresses, which was in revolt of the long heavy skirts and corsets worn by Victorian women. This also coincided with women getting the vote (suffrage) and women working outside the home. Women came together in hive like behavior as they banded together to fight for their rights in a gesture of alliance and posterity, foraging together – and indeed their life depended on it. Women today depended on the work they did to ensure advancing the rights of women.
Which brings us back to the bee. I’m not asking you to get your picket signs out and start a revolution. Picketing isn’t for the faint of heart. Although if you feel so inclined, please do! I’m suggesting the gentle gesture of planting a bee friendly garden that will attract honeybees. You can even start with one potted plant if you don’t have space for a full garden. And secondly, refrain from using pesticides. This is for your benefit as much as for the bees.
You may find there is a vagueness to the comparison I’ve drawn, but the most important thing to know for now is that I mean to amuse through my art pieces while raising awareness about bees, and the essential importance of their ability to nurture and sustain nature and community in their fragile states. Things will become clearer as I elaborate on these ideas in future musings. Things will become clearer as the idea unfolds and develops. In the mean time, I leave you with the Bee Knees to contemplate the profound act of synchronicity and connection that occurs through the social expression of dance – a mirror to nature…and ultimately, us.
Garnet & Ashes is a sprightly line of vintage inspired mixed media original fine art & reproductions. A venture of Caroline Nevin; a contemporary artist and BFA graduate from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Garnet & Ashes utilizes a nudging, playful approach with a mélange of bee imagery, vintage treasures and ephemera to arouse and ignite the senses and inspire reflection on notions of identity and memory, discordant habitats and reevaluations of archaic social structures.