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RENATURED: Honeybees + Murano

Judi Harvest

In March 2013, I planted a garden for honeybees on an abandoned field in Murano, Italy. This was conceived as an ongoing project, it has flourished and will be an integral part of my 2017 Venice Biennale exhibition. I am also creating new artworks for the exhibition, continuing the theme of honeybees and the beauty and fragility of life.

Details

In March, 2013, I planted a garden for honeybees on an abandoned field in Murano, Italy. This was conceived as an ongoing project and it has flourished. The exhibition title was “DENATURED: Honeybees + Murano.” “DENATURED” was born of my concern for the worldwide environmental threat to the honeybee population and the increasing decline of handcrafted glassmaking in Murano, home to the distinctive art of Venice for seven centuries. Today we are losing 50 million honeybees a day. At the factory where I have worked since 1988, there were 75 glass masters, and today there are four.

Now, in the Murano Honey garden, the four hives have grown to eight as new Queen Bees have been born. There are pomegranates, peaches, pears, lavender, rosemary, roses and strawberries being enjoyed by the glass masters and visitors of the factory. The glass factory is getting more attention and sales due to the Honey Garden and the press it continues to receive. However, the factory and the honeybees are still endangered. The maintenance of the garden, the beekeeper and all of the supplies are paid for through the sales of honey, art works, and donations from visitors to the garden—and it is not enough. 

My project is to direct awareness toward the endangered honeybees and the glassmakers of Venice, these two fragile colonies of beauty. The theme throughout my work is the fragility of life and the search for beauty. But I have come to realize that the entire food chain is under threat. This led me to research seed vaults.

The largest in the world is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Opened in 2008 inside a frozen Norwegian mountain, it preserves more than 850,000 species of seeds, deposited there in case of a global disaster. Like the honeybees and the artisans of Venice, seeds are fundamental to the fragile, increasingly threatened chain of life.

I have been invited to participate in the 2017 Venice Biennale in a collateral exhibition with the Honey Garden and a series of related artworks which I am creating in my New York studio and Murano, Venice. For this exhibition I will create 500 unique seeds in Murano glass, as well as paintings, video and additional glass sculptures, which will be installed in a palace on the Grand Canal.

The Artspire Fiscal Sponsorship will allow me to raise the funds to produce the work for this upcoming show and maintain the Honey Garden, which is now 3 years old and the heart of the project.

Judi Harvest
June, 2016

 

With the subject of honeybees and the material of Murano glass, my research and inspiration are boundless. But the future of honeybee colonies and the culture of Murano are not comparably secure. If the decline of honeybees continues at the current rate, they will be extinct by the year 2035. Murano glass factories have an expiration date as well. The beehive and the glass factory are highly evolved and specialized systems. Living without the richness and beauty of their respective products seems unthinkable. To protect both is a labor of love.  — Judi Harvest, January 2013