An artist eavesdrops into the world of bees

The artist Jessica Rath surrounded by her human-scale beehives at Cal State Long Beach
The artist Jessica Rath surrounded by her human-scale beehives at Cal State Long Beach

Artist Jessica Rath was first inspired to immerse herself in the world of the bee when she witnessed what’s called a “cold huddle” years ago, a swarm of bees churning to create friction for warmth. “The sound stayed in my head,” she said, “and I began talking to composer Bob Hoehn about translating bee behavior into a very large score and making a human scale bumble bee nest.”

That haunting score, as performed by the university’s Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir, the giant gold-hued resin nests, and other works are on display for just a few more days at the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach.

Rath’s inventive multi-media exhibition, titled A Better Nectar, is rooted in science; she studied the bee courtesy the experts at the Leonard Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno.

What you won’t see anywhere in these lovely galleries is an image of the insect celebrated in the show: “I really want you to become the bee,” said Rath. “This puts us on a more level playing field with other creatures.”

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Rath’s sculpture Staminal Evolution. Photo by Aisha Singleton
Bee Purple by Jessica Rath
Visitors stand before Rath’s light sculpture, Bee Purple, which “emulates bees’ spectrally shifted experience of the color wavelengths that attract them to floral patterns and nectar”