The human built environment extends beyond buildings, reshaping the green spaces around and within it. Perfectly manicured lawns and curated gardens are as much a part of the American dream as the houses situated on top of them. Cross-Pollination is a project commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art for the exhibition More than Shelter, which is on view from October 8, 2022 until February 5, 2023. Collaborating with architect Mel Price and her colleagues Sam Bowling and Corrie Wilcox at Work Program Architects, this work examines how we can reimagine these spaces to promote biodiversity and nurture native plant and pollinator species so important to maintaining ecosystems that support human life. The title refers not only to the process carried out by bees and butterflies, but the interspecies empathy and collaboration necessary to address environmental problems facing us. Taking care of pollinators is a step towards breaking down the hierarchical illusion that we are separate from nature, returning us to the natural community we originated from.
These pieces imagine what it would look like if curated green spaces in Hampton Roads were given back to nature. In traditional folklore across many cultures bees and butterflies have been thought to be messengers between the realms of the living and the dead, making them apt symbols of loss in an age of record mass extinctions. The bees and butterflies in these collages exist in the ephemeral space between life and death, portents of an increasing biodiversity crisis. The buildings in these works come from old postcards of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, drawing from them a sense of nostalgia. The historic vernacular architecture of this region has been replaced alongside the maritime forest and wetlands, the price we have payed for the massive development across this region in recent decades.
The title of this piece connects the term “bee hotel” to an overall shift in attitude of inviting biodiversity back into our built environments. After the exhibition 'More than Shelter', these sculptures/bee hotels will be placed in local community gardens and conservation areas to serve their function in providing shelters for native solitary bees to lay their eggs. The designs combine logs, a natural place for bees to lay eggs and build hives, with elements of traditional local and biomimetic architecture. This poses questions about what has and still could be lost: What if in the future all that remains of bees is their influence on human architecture?