Red Deer artist sculpts bees and flowers to make a reverent statement about nature

Ceramicist Dawn Detarando’s Echo Botanical exhibit is on at the Harris-Warke Gallery

The bees buzzing around Red Deer artist Dawn Detarando’s studio have been pollinating her creative thoughts.

Detarando and her husband and fellow ceramic artist, Brian McArthur, took up an interest in beekeeping after thousands of the striped insects swarmed their property on the city’s outskirts over the last three summers.

In 2014, a low, droning sound drew the couple to the space between two sheds, where a dark cloud of bees “30 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide” was hanging in the air. Detarando recalled it as an awe-inspiring sight.

After a couple of years of trying to corral the swarming insects (in 2015, the bees clustered onto a sagging tree branch), she and McArthur managed to get some into a homemade wooden hive box last summer. Their efforts should be rewarded with some honey yields in 2017.

But Detarando’s adventures with the productive pollinators also sparked plenty of creative output — and the results can be seen in her meticulously wrought solo art exhibit Echo Botanical, at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Sunworks.

Bees of various sizes, delicately sculpted in naturalistic detail out of porcelain-like clay, grace her wall hangings and vessels. Detarando depicts the insects alongside ceramic petals of dahlias, lilies, sunflowers and anemones, or on top of architecturally carved honeycomb.

Nature is often framed by ornate sconces, arches and roundels — since pieces in Echo Botanical were also inspired by the Renaissance works of the della Robia family of Florence, Italy, who incorporated architectural features into their sculptures of the Virgin and Child.

Detarando, who’s always drawn strength and inspiration from the outdoors, decided to surround bees and flowers with ornate architecture to show her reverence for nature.

Although concerns exist about the decline in the bee population due to disease and other factors, political statements aren’t overt in Detarando’s art. Instead, she guilds several wall hangings in gold lustre to show “how precious this connection is with nature, and how nature affects everything we eat.”

The Massachusetts native, who has a graduate degree in fine arts from The Ohio State University, has worked on the Botanical pieces for a couple of years, between various public art projects she takes on as a partner in Voyager Art and Tile.

Detarando’s flight of fancy with bees isn’t over, as some of the experimental pieces in this display are inspiring her to create new works along the same theme.

The exhibit runs through early January.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff Red Deer ceramics artist Dawn Detarando’s exhibit titled Echo Botanical is currently on display at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Sunworks in Red Deer.

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