Ladislav Hanka, “From the Book of Records: Pollinators and Decomposers”

Full two page spread of facing Bee-hive frames


Detail of one side: Deep-Root Mushroom


Detail of second side: Cavalier Mushroom


Artist: Ladislsav Hanka (Kalamazoo, MI)

Title: From the Book of Records: Pollinators and Decomposers (2012)

Medium/technique(s): etching with beeswax applied by bees in the hive

Number of pages: 2 facing pages

Dimensions: 19 x 13.5″ (25 x 19 x 3″ framed)


Artist Statement:

Esoteric traditions speak of an Akashic Record in which all things are recorded and accessible to those who’ve earned the right of entry. Here you see a fanciful entry in that book of records, opened to the page of decomposers and pollinators.

In the great cycle of being, creation and decomposition are but two sides of one coin.  Bees pollinate and plants reconfigure the molecules that soil fungi pry loose from the dead and release back into the system.   Of course, bees are in trouble and Bee Trees are increasingly rare.  Crops are now threatened by a paucity of pollinators. even the once resilient decomposing side of the cycle is now weakened by pernicious pollutants that have no obvious chinks in their armor and thus are not easily broken down.

I’d like to do something about all of that, but I am neither scientist nor politician.  I am an artist and a beekeeper – thus an active dues-paying member of two ancient esoteric brotherhoods.  So I draw pictures.  When I do so, I feel in touch with creation and most fully alive.  When I open a hive, it isn‘t so different.   My attention is clearly upon the sound of 30,000 buzzing creatures, each with a venom-filled stinger, getting increasingly disturbed as I reach in and pull out their winter stores. I read the ledger of their lives in frame after frame of brood and honey in order to manage the hive.  Since I rarely wear much more than a T-shirt and shorts, I must also be sensitive to their communications or suffer the consequences.   In both of these callings, as artist and as keeper of the bees, I am entering Primordial mysterious worlds that are at once alluring, and potentially dangerous.

You see before you my two interests combined:  The etchings are made in the usual way, but then I insert them into the hive for bees to add the next layer.  Sometimes they chew up my artwork and pitch it out of the hive alongside their excrement and dead.  At other times they join forces with me to co-create.   If I cover my work with a thin translucent layer of melted bee’s wax, it smells familiar and they tend to accept it.   If I attach some burr comb, they seem to like that even better and often initiate work right there – adding to it or recycling it and moving it around.   Let them go long enough and they’ll cover it all with capped honeycomb or perhaps they’ll chew it all up.  Take it out at just the right moment and the results can be an unpredictable collaboration of sublime beauty.