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The Layers of Bee-ingness

Layer One- Osmia Avosetta


In 2010 two groups of scientists, working in Iran and Turkey, simultaneously discovered the nests of a rare type of bee. Their report was published by the American Museum of natural History and the following year I saw photos of the bee’s nest in National Geographic, and I fell in love.


Osmia Avosetta is a solitary bee. Her brilliance is in how she builds her nests.  She digs a tiny burrow in the earth. Then she collects pieces of flower petals, delivering one at a time and layering one over another using nectar as glue until she has lined the nest entirely. When the outer casing is completed, she reinforces it with a thin layer of mud and then she adds an interior layer of flower petals. Into this beautiful little wallpapered space, she deposits pollen and nectar, making a bed of nutritional goodness onto which she lays her egg.  Finally, she neatly folds in the inner layer of petals, then the outer petals and then she makes a cap of sorts with more mud, sealing the structure and protecting the vulnerable egg from harm. Osmia Avosetta will build up to 10 of these in a two-week period, curating colorful caves to offer her offspring safety and care.  The larvae then digest the nectar, spin their own cocoons, and emerge in spring.


This magical act of creativity in nature seems beyond imagining and yet somehow deeply familiar. 


Layer Two – Karma


O.A.’s layered nests also represent for me the layers of karmic habits we develop to protect ourselves. For the past decade I have been immersed in meditation and the path of awakening. I have learned about the wheel of samsara, or how we retrace patterns that emerge through ways we attempt to protect ourselves from how we may have been hurt when we were young. Those karmic habits can become armor and they are the lens through which we see our lives and the world. Yet, they distort our view of larger reality and often, we can no longer clearly see our essential nature which is love.


Layer Three - Wombs


I have been told that these nest paintings look like anatomical hearts and while that is a powerful connection, for me they represent a womb. Women’s bodies, women’s wombs – our wombs are under attack. In that regard I see the nests as a reminder to protect what is precious.  


The Work


O.A.’s nests thoroughly inspire me. In 2014 I made a series of watercolor renderings. In 2021 I made many small abstract versions of the nests. For these most recent pieces, I have been making monoprints on rice paper using botanical material and collaging pieces of those prints onto paper and wood panels. In some cases, there are images hidden behind or emerging from the transparent layers. All the pieces include acrylic and/or watercolor paint. I also employed embroidery in some of the works, which represents the intimacy of the handmade and is a deep bow to those crafts which have been seen as strictly in the realm of the feminine.


O.A. is an artist, an architect, and a mother. Her effort and artistry demand awe of the natural world and invite us to also see the beauty, layers, intricacy, and possibility of our humanity.

Stefanie Bradie

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