“Artists, Bees, and Natural Communities”


Wednesday, October 25
First United Methodist Church, 212 S. Park St., downtown Kalamazoo
Doors open at 6:30 pm for socializing
Program starts promptly at 7

Lad Hanka, well-known artist, naturalist, printmaker, craftsman, beekeeper,
and maker of books will speak to Wild Ones October 25 on “Artists, Bees, and
Natural Communities.” His program will feature a powerpoint presentation of
his art and its relation to natural history, especially some of the work in which
he collaborates with bees.

In his collaborations, Lad glues his etchings to wooden frames for beekeeping
and places them into the hive. “Living bees,” he says, “sniff around and they
start moving honeycomb around, and eventually they either chew up the
artwork and spit it out or cover it with honey. I make a decision of when to
pull it. There’s a collaboration that happens. Bees have a brain the size of a
pinhead, but there is something about the collective intelligence of the hive. I’ve seen
a response that goes past an accident. But maybe it’s not. Either way, I love beekeeping,
like I love art. It’s one of the ways I’ve enriched my life.”

Lad will also talk about one of his bestknown recent etchings, “Kalamazoo River
Songline,” a large work that incorporates images of plants and other creatures inhabiting
the Kalamazoo River, the meandering course of which is central to the etching.

The etching “encapsulates much of what I’ve done over the last three decades I’ve
been an artist,” Lad says. “It really is like the Australian tradition of the songline
where you walk the landscape, and you sing to yourself where you’ve been and
what it looks like and it somehow be- “Destroying Angel,” a collaboration
comes your story. We all have a story of by Ladislav Hanka and bees
some kind. I tell my story through pictures, through drawing.”

For Lad, environmentalist writers and artists are part of a lineage that serves
the politics of the day because they transcend it and “the eternal war we seem
to be fighting somewhere for some reason.”

“My subject matter,” Lad concludes, “will tell you where I find evidence of the
divine. I love to fish and gather mushrooms. I cannot get enough of ancient
trees and the way their asymmetries and gravity bring me back to a place of
profound stillness. The very idea that trees alive today were seeded at the
birth of the old kingdom of Egypt and are thus as old as the written word
itself, sets me free. I kneel at their roots and feel blessed.”
Lad Hanka has a degree in biology from Kalamazoo College, including courses
from Wild Ones’ Paul Olexia. He also has a master’s degree in zoology from
Colorado State University and an M.F.A. in printmaking from WMU. Lad’s work
is included in many collections, including the Detroit Art Institute, the Grand
Rapids Art Museum, and over 100 other public institutions ranging from
Boston to Prague and Beijing. Unlike most artists, Lad earns enough money
from his art to cover his needs. “The answer,” he says, “is somewhere in the
direction of the naked Saddhu wandering the world and not really needing
much of anything.”