National Sculpture Garden in Winter

Today I walked through the Sculpture Garden. Snow on the ground. Temperatures in the 20s. Here’s my message for the day from the work of Robert Indiana:

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Washington, DC—Robert Indiana’s AMOR (conceived 1998, executed 2006) is now on view in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. A play on Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture, AMOR is constructed from red and yellow polychrome aluminum. This is the first sculpture by Indiana (American, b. 1928) to enter the Gallery’s collection, and it significantly advances the Gallery’s holdings of monumental modern sculpture. The sculpture was given to the Gallery in May 2012 by Simon and Gillian Salama-Caro in memory of Ruth Klausner.

Indiana originally conceived the familiar “Love” graphic in drawings, paintings, and sculptures between 1964 and 1966. The first sculptural version was displayed at an exhibition at the Stable Gallery in Manhattan in 1966, and the artist has continued working with the motif since. The image became most widely known through a commission for a Museum of Modern Art card in 1965 and the 8-cent “Love” stamp issued in 1973 by the United States Postal Service. The graphic became an emblem of the 1970s in the U.S., associated with the relaxation of social strictures. The monumental AMOR made its first appearance in the center of Madrid in 2006. With its inclined “O” and vibrant colors, it extends the spirit of “Love” into several languages and cultures.

Bee Dreams: ‘Anthers Bright with Pollen’

In the deep mid-winter, it’s nice to think about bees. Below is a photo by California photograher Kate Kunath. It’s from her photo series Stung: Beekeeping in the 21st Century.

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The apiarist in Kunath’s photo is Jeff Anderson of Oakdale, California. Below is a little more about him from Sharon Levy’s article The Vanishing. Her writing is luscious and warm.

Just down the road, Jeff Anderson and his three assistants methodically pry the lid off each of hundreds of hive boxes to check the health of the colonies inside. As the day wears on and the March sunshine warms this little-used ranch road in California’s Sierra foothills, more and more bees take flight.

Wild buckthorn bushes lining the road carry clusters of tiny white flowers, their anthers bright with pollen. Bees work the blossoms, packing the yellow grains into smooth depressions on their hind legs, specially designed to carry this fuel (pollen is a high-protein food) back to the hive. On their travels, they transfer pollen from plant to plant, flower to flower, fertilizing the blossoms and allowing them to set fruit. This ancient partnership of pollinator and plant is essential to life as we know it. One-third of the food we eat comes from crops that need animal pollinators, a role often filled by bees but sometimes by butterflies, beetles, birds, or bats. Bee-pollinated foods include squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, and pears. Unfortunately, the honeybees surrounding me are members of a threatened tribe, whose loss would have a dire effect on farmers, not to mention everyone who eats fruits and vegetables.

It’s cold and clear in Washington today. The sun is low and the shadows long and sharp. For now the bees are tucked away inside their hives eating the rewards of a spring and summer of hard work. Their primary job for the next few months is just to stay warm–and focus on the queen. I like that. Maybe I’ll try that too. Stay warm and focus on the Sabbath Queen: “Come, let us go to receive Shabbat the Queen.”