Upon entering the Pavilion at Lotusland, you’ll immediately notice a change of scene. A towering box straight ahead of you emits the buzzing of thousands of bees, and the air smells of beeswax and, strangely, rejuvenation. Forward and to your left, you’ll see a small room transformed into what feels like a spa, with beautifully ornate tiles depicting lotus pods, tile reliefs, doorknobs and lotus flowers almost reaching out from the wall to pull you into the deliciously scented wax.
Such is the Swarm exhibit at Lotusland, curated by Nancy Gifford and dedicated to exposing the beauty and complexity behind an insect which we often take for granted, but couldn’t live without: the bee.
Gifford hand-picked each piece for this collaboration, spending over a year in ideas and negotiations to fill the pavilion with never-before-seen and multimedia art. Penelope Stewart‘s wax tiles and Keith Puccinelli‘s bee box are only two examples in an exhibit spanning genres, mediums, and even sensory experiences.
Electron-microscope photographs by Rose-Lynn Fisher border a mostly blacked-out room, depicting various intensely magnified parts of bees (one is the bee’s knees, literally!). In the center of the room, an illuminated box by Ethan Turpin and Jonathan Smith stands with videos of bees in their hive projected onto the walls—entering into the six-walled room feels as though you’ve shrunk into a bee hive to spectate on its work.
Other artwork is sprinkled throughout the Pavilion, such as intricate gold-leaf pieces by Stephanie Wilde demanding a lengthy viewing to fully grasp the technique and talent required to make the pieces. Artists of other mediums and perspectives of the bee include Theresa Carter, Bill Dewey, Ed Inks, Cynthia James, Casey Lurie, Maria Rendón and Anna Vaughan.
Bringing the community to experience Lotusland as never before is definitely a highlight of the exhibit. With Swarm (and hopefully similar exhibits in the future), Santa Barbarans may leave Lotusland with a renewed amazement with the property.
Swarm continues until Saturday, May 4. Be sure to spend time in Penelope Stewart’s beeswax room—it will be disassembled after the exhibit ends. For more information on Swarm and Lotusland, check out the website here.
-Taylor Micaela Davis