YORKTON – Local artist and Godfrey Art Gallery Manager Kelly Litzenberger returned a new LEGO piece to the beehives over the past bee season.
This is the second of Litzenberger's artworks to become a collaborative effort between himself and bees and is part of a larger exhibit that will premiere at the Art Gallery of Regina starting January 18.
Beetween Us, said Litzenberger, consists of “multiple artists participating in a collaborative effort between artists and bees under the guidance of Canadian artist, Aganetha Dyck.”
“Dyck is best known for her work with honeybees, which began in 1989 when she rented beehives, and is described by her as a collaboration. Dyck places objects into beehives and allows insects to build honeycomb on the objects, sometimes over the course of years,” as per the biography section of AganethaDyck.ca.
Litzenberger's previous piece was featured in the Jan. 19, 2022 issue of Yorkton This Week and consisted of a different LEGO art piece.
In 2017, Kelly Litzenberger designed and built a Lego replica of a business he owned and operated from 1998 to 2004, Revolution Snow and Skate. The Lego building took 2,200 pieces, about forty hours to build, and was part of a larger exhibit that included Yorkton’s City Hall among other well-known city landmarks. The exhibit went on to do very well, receiving over 5000 signatures in the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery’s guest book.
In April of 2021, Litzenberg said he was approached by the director of the Godfrey Dean who was working in conjunction with the Regina Art Gallery to participate in the 'Between Us' exhibition with several other Saskatchewan artists.
His newest piece might be described as a self-portrait with LEGOs used as the medium.
"I constructed this LEGO piece and this is kind of like a recreation of myself looking at a beehive, that I then put in a beehive," said Litzenberger, adding, "I was lucky enough to work with Sascha at Howland's Honey and this LEGO piece was in the beehives for about a month-and-a-half."
Litzenberger said he was able to improve on his newest collaborative effort with the bees having learned from his previous experience.
"It took the bees a little while to get started but once they did I was able to manipulate the honeycomb that they had put in there and make this creation," said Litzenberger, adding, "it's quite a lot different and I was a little bit more prepared this year after seeing what the bees had done last year to my LEGO object."
"I'm really happy with what they did," said Litzenberger, noting, "the bees actually built more than what I intended, so there's spots on this model that I'd extracted and removed honeycomb from and then the bees had then repaired all the holes when I put it back in the beehive."
"They were really active—I'd say they were almost overactive—which definitely was a positive because I know it can be hard for bees to construct on objects that are not so natural because this is just all built on ABS plastics," said Litzenberger of the honeycomb construction.
The LEGO piece is complete with a replica of the artist handling bees in their hive accompanied by LEGO bees and LEGO flowers.
"Funny enough, the bees built honeycomb on the [LEGO] bees but the bees didn't build honeycomb on the LEGO flowers – they left those alone," said Litzenberger with a smile.
"This exhibition, Between Us, will be the first time that we're presenting artworks that have been made in collaboration between humans and honey bees," said Sandee Moore, Curator of Exhibitions and Programming at the Art Gallery of Regina, noting she started the project when she started as curator at the AGR almost three years ago.
Moore said she was familiar with Aganetha Dyck's style of artwork and approached the artist to see if she was interested in an exhibit.
"She's a world-renowned artist, but also an artist in her 80s—she's not interested in making or exhibiting artwork anymore—what she was interested in was working with other artists and passing on this knowledge that she's learned on how to create artwork with honeybees and embracing the surprises that emerge," said Moore.
"It's very exciting for me to see all of the artists we've worked with from all across the province—to see how everyone has brought their unique perspective—the materials and the methods they've already been using and how they've responded to what the bees have done with their offerings that they've put into the beehive," said Moore.
"Aganetha has a wonderful way of phrasing this, she says, 'there are always surprises', and I think that this really forces a lot of artists out of their comfort zone and challenges them and provides opportunities to grow as an artist when you're faced with something so unexpected, like how the bees are actually going to build onto your sculpture," said Moore.
Between Us will run at the Art Gallery of Regina from Jan. 18 to March 5, 2023.