Deakin University
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Bee representations in human art and culture through the ages

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Kit PrendergastKit Prendergast, J E Garcia, Scarlett Howard, Z X Ren, Stuart J. McFarlane, A G Dyer
The field of bioaesthetics seeks to understand how modern humans may have first developed art appreciation and is informed by considering a broad range of fields including painting, sculpture, music and the built environment. In recent times there has been a diverse range of art and communication media representing bees, and such work is often linked to growing concerns about potential bee declines due to a variety of factors including natural habitat fragmentation, climate change, and pesticide use in agriculture. We take a broad view of human art representations of bees to ask if the current interest in artistic representations of bees is evidenced throughout history, and in different regions of the world prior to globalisation. We observe from the earliest records of human representations in cave art over 8,000 years old through to ancient Egyptian carvings of bees and hieroglyphics, that humans have had a long-term relationship with bees especially due to the benefits of honey, wax, and crop pollination. The relationship between humans and bees frequently links to religious and spiritual representations in different parts of the world from Australia to Europe, South America and Asia. Art mediums have frequently included the visual and musical, thus showing evidence of being deeply rooted in how different people around the world perceive and relate to bees in nature through creative practice. In modern times, artistic representations extend to installation arts, mixed-media, and the moving image. Through the examination of the diverse inclusion of bees in human culture and art, we show that there are links between the functional benefits of associating with bees, including sourcing sweet-tasting nutritious food that could have acted, we suggest, to condition positive responses in the brain, leading to the development of an aesthetic appreciation of work representing bees.



Art and Perception






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Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal