a better nectar
University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach–January 27 – April 12, 2015
The College of New Jersey Art Gallery–February 2  – April 9, 2017

 A Better Nectar is an expansive multisensory installation through which the tender co-evolutionary communication between flowering plants and their pollinators is unearthed. Rath creates an immersive rhythmic experience, using sculpture light, and sound, to consider how bumblebees learn and remember multisensory floral signals to find better nectar.

Premiering January 31, 2015 at the University Art Museum (UAM), California State University, Long Beach, the exhibition is divided into three sections. In “Resonant Nest” visitors experience a multi-sensory, human-scaled bumblebee nest that resonates human voice interpretations of bee communication composed by long-time collaborator Robert Hoehn. The seven-foot sculptures in “Staminal Evolution” are based on flowers that require “buzz pollination,” a process in which bees vibrate a certain frequency to open the flower and thus release its pollen. And in “Bee Purple,” immersive light projections emulate bees’ spectrally shifted experience of the color wavelengths that attract them to floral patterns and nectar. Visitors are provided with a human-scaled experience of a bee’s intimate sensorial journey from its underground nest to an audibly and visually pulsating world, based on the Rath’s research with Dr. Anne Leonard at the Leonard Bee Lab, University of Nevada, Reno. A Better Nectar is organized by the artist and UAM curator Kristina Newhouse.

The exhibit also includes a “Research Station” featuring the artist’s photo essay from the Leonard Bee Lab, the original 200 lb. internal plug mold for the creation of “Nest,” and related bee and native plant specimens. K-12 outreach curriculum during the course of the exhibition provides information about pollinators, native flora, and habitat and is developed in partnership with the Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit California native plant nursery and educational center.

The project is an interdisciplinary undertaking between the artist and her collaborators, CSU departments of Music and Education, and some of the countries leading and most innovative bee scientists. Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Lauren Bon and The Metabolic Studio, The Peter S. Reed Foundation, The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, and a Mid-Career Fellowship for the artist from the California Community Foundation.

A 96 page catalog designed by Casa Marengo was released in August 2015. Edited by curator Kristina Newhouse, the catalog features the artist’s process and essays by Dr. Anne Leonard and Dr. Antonia Szabari and Dr. Natania Meeker, co-authors of  Who Will Remember Us, Plants and the Archive (Edinburgh University Press). The catalog is available through the Los Angeles gallery Commonwealth and Council and publisher, University Art Museum, CSULB.

Exhibition Panels included:

  • Umwelt: Human Eavesdropping into a Bee’s World
    March 26, 2015, University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA
    with Dr. Wayne Wright, Dept. of Philosophy, California State University, Long Beach; Dr. Natania Meeker, Depts. of French and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California
; Dr. Anne Leonard, Dept. of Biology, University of Nevada; and curator Kristina Newhouse)
  • Vocal Vibrations: Decoding Buzz Pollination
    February 12, 2015, University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA
    with Project Conductor Jonathan Talberg, Director, Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, California State University, Long Beach; Project Composer Robert Hoehn, Project Sound Engineer Rychard Cooper; and Sound Artist Steve Boyer

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