When art pollinates education
What if humans could see what a bee could see?
It isn't everyday one has time to step back and imagine that perspective, but Forest Grove artist Susan Curington wants to change that, one generation at a time.
Born and raised in the Gaston area, Curington set out on a journey last year to paint nature from the bee's way of looking at the world.
Her series, "As the Bee Sees: A Pollinator's Perspective," features nine 6-by-4 foot paintings that are currently on display at the Beaverton City Library, 12375 Fifth St.
Each depict blossoms from zucchini, strawberry and kiwi plants, to name a few, all magnified on the large canvas with mosaic-like colors.
The work is meant to educate audiences on pollination health and create empathy about the bees's delicate experience on being an essential part to ecology, Curington said.
"Everything represented here are foods we eat every day," she said. "This really hits close to home, that if the bees disappear one day, we are left with less food. Soon, there is strawberry shortcake without the strawberries, no watermelon in August. The main point is to encourage empathy. We think bees are little, and we are big, but it is all relative. Empathy leads to compassion, which leads to action."
Curington is teaming up with West Union Elementary teacher Kim Harrington to teach Harrington's fourth and fifth graders an immersive art experience around her work with documenting bees and their food sources.
Harrington, a teacher for more than 20 years, invited three of her students to see Curington's opening night at the library, with local bee expert Glen Andresen of Bridgetown Bees speaking on honey bees living in the city.
"They came and absolutely loved it," Harrington said. "She has already expressed to us her belief that art can provide a movement for change in the world. Understanding and saving the plight of bees is a lesson and an inherent joy found in her work. We are so grateful for her time and expertise and taking this message to children."
Before the end of the school year, the rest of Harrington's class will visit the library to see Curington's work and listen to her speak, watch her paint and then participate in a scavenger hunt Harrington and Curington created for them.
Curington will also visit the school for two days to teach the students how to make bee and flower mobiles from tissue paper and branches she collected in her own backyard.
"Most of us are way overloaded with words," Curington said. "People respond to images and color, and I hope people are impacted by this."
Curington immersed herself last spring after looking at a gallery in Linfield College when she suddenly became inspired to research how everyday vegetables and fruit plants would look if humans saw what bees saw. Painting with an educational lens in mind feels like one thing
she can do to make a difference, she said.
For Harrington, Curington is an inspiration for her students to pursue what they love, she said.
"Ever since (the library event), we have talked about finding something you are passionate in, and that one thing you can do to make the world a better place," Harrington said about introducing her students to Curington's work. "Whether it is cleaning up the beaches, or honeybees, what is the one thing that you can make a difference with. I've told them that this is something they are going to hear again from (Curington)."
"As The Bee Sees" will be on display at the Beaverton Library until the end of June and will continue its journey around the state, traveling to Hood River later this month; Oregon State University, Corvallis, in August and September; Linfield College, McMinnville, in October; and Hillsboro for the spring of 2020 at City Hall.
After the shows, any of the unsold paintings will be donated to nonprofit organizations, including the Oregon Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. To learn more about the exhibit and Curington, visit susancurington.com.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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