Bee sculpture at San Francisco's de Young museum getting lots of buzz

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are more than a dozen unique sculptures dotting the terraces of San Francisco's de Young museum. But this summer, one, in particular, is creating all the buzz.

"Well I don't know if I'm an artist, says Marc Johnson, "but I'm the lead beekeeper on this project."

For many months, Johnson, a member of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association, has been breathing life into a statue that sits squarely at the intersection of art and nature.

And on this sunny morning, he's removing the protective walls so the public can enjoy it too.

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The work, known as Exomind (Deep Water) by artist Pierre Huyghe depicts a young woman crouching towards the earth, with a brain-like hive perched above her shoulders. It's the physical and metaphorical home to a colony of Italian honeybees. Going about their business, while provoking thought about our interdependence, says curator Claudia Schmuckli.

"It gestures to the fact that bees literally have to be on our minds if we care about the health of our planet and our place in it, and any kind of life," Schmuckli explains.

For 13-year-old visitor Yasmine Kennedy Crum the message is also a call to her generation, about issues like climate change.

"It's going to be our planet and we're the next generation and so everything that's happening now is setting us up for our future," she says.

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Beekeeper Marc Johnson says this colony is incredibly well cared for. Special cameras monitor the bees around the clock when the exhibit is boxed up. But he says that's not the fate of bee populations across California - which are under intense stress from pesticides, parasites, habitat loss, and more.

"The big C is climate change. We've seen things with our bees that we've never seen before. Last year with the orange skies, the bees stayed in for three days," says Johnson.

But if life sometimes imitates art, curators hope the exhibit inspires visitors to begin thinking more about the creatures we share our planet with. And how we all depend on each other.

The exhibit is supported by the San Francisco Beekeepers Association, which has about 350 members helping to promote the health of urban bee colonies around the city.
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