Many contemporary artists appropriate natural elements in their work, but few have managed as genuine a collaboration as Garnett Puett has established with honeybees. This unique, reciprocal relationship sets his work apart from other earth and environmental artists, forming a distinct category for his apisculptures in which sculpture, performance, and insect partnership coalesce.
During his graduate study at Pratt, Puett conceived apisculptures as an alternative to works made from more traditional sculpting materials; he wanted to create something out of what occurs naturally in the environment, working in conjunction with nature instead of against it.
The apisculptures are supported by welded steel armatures of Puett’s design which are covered in beeswax. Puett employs as many as 90,000 honeybees per piece, which simultaneously live within and shape the structure for the duration of the process. While Puett cannot fully control the forms that the bees choose for their honeycombs, he can manipulate it by melting and removing parts. When Puett determines that the sculpture is finished, he transplants the bees to an ordinary beehive and cleans the honey from the comb. If the wax sculptures are properly preserved they can last for thousands of years, bearing the marks of the joint performance between nature and creativity.
Garnett Puett was born in 1959 in Hahira, Georgia and now lives in Hawaii. In addition to being an artist, he is a fourth generation beekeeper. After studying in the MFA program at Pratt Institute, New York, Puett exhibited extensively in 1980s and 1990s before relocating to the Big Island to manage his commercial honey business. A Change of Place in summer 2016 at The School in Kinderhook, New York, gathered together important works, several of which were exhibited for the first time in over two decades.
Public collections include Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Art Museum, New York; The Honolulu State Art Museum, Hawaii; MIT Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mexico National Art Museum; and The Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, Missouri.