The bees are dying, even in Montecito. Colony collapses are the thing of apocalyptic news reports, with everything from pesticides to cellphone use as the culprit. So with this new and rare art show called “Swarm” at Lotusland, the question can be asked: Is this a celebration or a memorial? Nancy Gifford, artist, collector, and curator, got a chance to turn several rooms in Madame Ganna Walska’s house into a place to examine what bees mean to art, humanity and nature. The results are worth your time to attend.
The centerpiece of the show is Penelope Stewart’s beeswax tiles, which completely cover one side of the entrance room and serve as a gateway into the other rooms. Using pounds upon pounds of beeswax, which in this enclosed space smells lovely, Ms. Stewart has used Lotusland as inspiration for the shapes that jut out of the bas-relief installation. Lotus pods, succulent blooms, decorative doorknobs, candelabras and more have been molded from wax and now stick out of the wall. The various colors of wax, based on the bees’ location and diet, make for fascinating exploration alone.