‘Foraging the Hive’ New MOG exhibit takes inspiration from the activity of bees

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The Museum of Glass’ newest exhibit, “Foraging the Hive,” by Tyler Budge and Sara Young, asks visitors to become busy bees, buzzing about and looking for interesting objects that can become part of a fantastic installation in the museum’s Grand Hall.

The main feature of the exhibit is a room full of glass test tubes that are sealed with beeswax and suspended from the ceiling in clusters like streams and globs of dripping honey. Each test tube contains a composition made of several objects collected by the artists over the course of years. These are things found here and there during the course of a day. People see these things, but rarely give them a second thought, let alone pick them up. There are rusty wingnuts, bent nails, cigarette butts, the leg broken from a plastic horse, a faded pen cap, a burned-out match…the list goes on. Juxtaposed against each other inside the hermetically sealed glass receptacles, the objects form composite configurations that are somehow poetic. Each tiny object is like a syllable and they are combined to form visual words. The overall accumulation of the objects in the tubes is like a great, abstract book that is, in a sense, a diary telling of places visited by the artists. Young, for example, can tell stories based on her memories of where she was when she collected this or that item in one of the test tubes. There are approximately 8,000 test tubes in the installation; each with its own assemblage sculpture.

The whole installation is an analogy to the way of bees fanning out from the hive to collect particles of pollen that are made into honey. The work of countless individuals over time accumulates into a golden treasure. Just so, the accumulation of all of these insignificant, meaningless items are brought together in such a way that they form a work of art and become triggers to memory and narrative. It is a remarkable feat.

Adjacent to the installation is a table with baskets of objects and materials and empty test tubes. Visitors to the museum are asked to make their own contribution to the exhibit by filling one of the empty test tubes. Repeat visitors can bring in things that they themselves have found during the course of going about their day-to-day lives. The test tube compilations made by museum visitors will be sealed and displayed in clusters on a wall in the entry area of the museum. Given that this exhibit runs through next April, this wall should be an amazing thing to behold as time goes on. (As of this writing, there were just a few clumps of the test tubes on the wall. Yes, I made my own contribution while there to see the exhibit. I stuck in a couple of beads and a strip of color paper along with one of my business cards that was rolled up and shoved into the tube.)

In conjunction with the exhibit, MOG installed a trio of beehives on the museum’s roof. Washington State University and Pierce County Master Gardeners helped in making planter boxes and stocking them with bee-friendly plantings. A video feed links the beehives on the roof to a sculptural part of the exhibit back down inside the gallery space.

Budge is a Tacoma artist who is a staff member of University of Washington, Tacoma. Young, meanwhile, is based in Providence, R.I. Both are beekeepers who wanted to collaborate in an exhibit that would teach the value of community and cooperation that they have learned from observing their bees.

It is always a treat to pay a visit to the Tacoma museum with its iconic tilted cone. One can browse the lavish exhibits or chill out inside the cone and watch the hot shop crew who are always busy creating objects visualized by this or that visiting artist. (The great Italian glass artist Lino Tagliapietra will be in the hot shop this weekend.) You can get a beverage or a bite to eat in the café and peruse the goods in the gift shop. We are lucky to have this treasure of art in our midst.

For more information, visit www.museumofglass.org.

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