Ruth Marsh wings it

Ruth Marsh’s bee obsession translates to cyborg bees—hello, Black Mirror—and lush drawings, on display at the Craig Gallery this month.

Marsh’s organic-feeling work is on display this month.
Marsh’s organic-feeling work is on display this month.

Ruth Marsh, Corpus Melliferous
To February 26
The Craig Gallery, 2 Ochterloney Street
Opening Wednesday, February 1, 7-9pm

Ruth Marsh is obsessed with bees. For the past several years, this NSCAD grad has been asking people to mail them to her. And they have—some 600 bees have come in from across Canada. Marsh taxidermies these bees and transforms them into cyborg creatures using found objects such as jewelry and computer parts.

"Bees are accessible," Marsh says of her material of choice. "Most people have a basic understanding of the importance of bees and there's a very clear connection between climate change and pollution and bee disappearance. It's a frightening enough problem but a small enough package in terms of action that people can take. It's something that's possible to understand."

Opening at The Craig Gallery is Marsh's newest show, an exhibit of large-scale drawings created in tandem with her bee project. Although no cyborg bees will be present, they do still feature heavily in her visual language.

"It's sort of the drawing version of the bee project," says Marsh. "It's a little obsessive and repetitive and meditative."

The exhibit is called Corpus Melliferous, which translates to "honey-bearing bodies."

"I've had a strong fascination, or obsession, with bees," says Marsh, "and so I started drawing these large-scale images of hair and bees, and the connection between human bodies and bee bodies."

Marsh has been working on the drawings for five years, some of them taking over a hundred hours to complete. "I work slowly and carefully on these drawings all the time," she says. And it shows. They are large, knotted, fleshy, meticulous creations that have a similar uncanny quality to her cyborg bees.

The next phase of Marsh's exploration of bees is a stop-motion video of her creations. "I made a video more about my experimentation with animating the bees, but the next one I make will have more of a story with characters. But nothing too twee."

All the while, Marsh will continue to receive bees by mail and expand her collection. "What I'm essentially doing is making a museum for the future when there are no longer any bees," she says. "So this will be an artifact of what bees once were."

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