Aganetha Dyck, Drawing with the Bees (part of the Drawing with the Bees series), c. 2006 (series c. 1990 continuing), honeycomb, ink, paper, wax, gold paint. Gift of Mark Winston, 2022

Aganetha Dyck’s early practice was focused on transforming domestic activities (e.g. cooking and cleaning) into art, thereby validating housework that is traditionally gendered and considered feminine. In 1989 Dyck began working with honeybees, which she considers to be non-human artistic collaborators. She places commonplace objects such as shoes, buttons, clothing, and figurines into beehives, and allows the bees to build up honeycomb around the objects; the bees coat some areas in honeycomb while leaving other areas exposed. These mundane objects are transformed from their original familiar contexts into new sculptural forms. Dyck is also interested in environmental issues, specifically the power of inter-species communication. Her research into beekeeping informed her own communications with her hive; and she has described an ability to direct the bees to make their honeycomb marks in specific areas on the objects by painting them with perfumes and pheromones.

Drawing with the Bees is part of a series with the same title. The work is a small slab, or tile, of wax with an ink drawing on paper embedded in it and finished by the bees. The bees created honeycomb encircling Dyck’s original drawing, almost as if to emphasize its line curvature and weight, giving further impact to its organic shape. As Dyck describes, the bees often had a deliberate contribution to their collaborative practice, and usually had “the last say,” telling Dyck when the work was completed.

Aganetha Dyck (1937) is an internationally known artist based in Winnipeg. Dyck’s work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, US, England, France, and the Netherlands. Her work is held in many private and public collections such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Canada.