Japanese-method woodblock (moku hanga)
Image size: 21" x 35" (53 x 89 cm)
Paper size: 25" x 38.5" (63.5 x 98 cm)
2 shina plywood blocks
13 hand-rubbed color layers
Paper: Shikoku White
Based on a much enlarged section of the back of a one dollar bill.
Honey bees have fascinated human beings for millenia. The honeybee, honey and hives are emblems of sweetness, wealth, and industry. Like us, bees have elaborate societies, they work hard, and like us they are suffering from strange maladies in this century. These creatures, who sting and yet are able to transform beauty into sweetness using their own bodies, have been cited in religious texts for thousands of years. Here's a small sampling of the ways that bees and honey have been linked to God in various traditions.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. (Bible, Psalms 19:9-10)
Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it. (Bible, Proverbs 25:16)
Your Lord revealed to the bees: "Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow." From inside them comes a drink of varying colours, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Quran, 16: 68)
Just as though a man were at a crossroads pressing out pure honey and a large group of people were poised in expectancy, so too, when the recluse Gotama is teaching the Dharma to an assembly of followers, on that occasion there is no sound of his disciples' coughing or clearing their throats. For then that large assembly is poised in expectancy: "Let us hear the Dharma the Blessed One is about to teach." (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha)
O noble one, the wise always offer a handful of flowers humming with bees in the direction where Bhagavan is awake. He is the eternal witness of the drama of the rise and the dissolution of this universe. (Shree Guru Gita, verse 51)
Interestingly, John Eliot, who translated the Bible into a Native American language in the 1660s, noted that there was no Native American word for wax or honey. Eliot claimed that the Indians used the term ‘White Man’s fly’ to describe bees. It seems that the native Americans were more in tune with the sting of the bee than the honey, as bees were interpreted by tribes farther west as a dark omen and harbinger of the white man's arrival. I guess this links bees with the expansion of capitalism in America.
This morning I'm thinking of this little edition of 10 prints as a handful of flowers humming with bees.