The importance of bees and Tennessee native flowers in local food production is a major theme of a new art installation, “From A to B,” at the Central Library’s Food for Thought Café. Las Vegas artist Myranda Bair created thirteen dioramas that depict native Tennessee flowering plants and beehives within the display niches of the distinctive and original card catalogue that functions as a “wall” between the serving and seating areas of the café.
“For the installation, I definitely wanted to connect to the history of the now obsolete card catalogue,” said Bair. “From my perspective the catalogue represents a history of organization as well as a loss of physicality to information. Digital technology takes up less space and can be accessed anywhere with the Internet, but I miss the tactile quality of the card catalogue.”
Bair pointed out that farming has also become much less tactile. “As a community, we tend to become disassociated with the laborious yet magical process in which food is created,” she said. “I wanted to give a visual representation of the bee’s role in regional food production.”
One of Bair’s goals was to demonstrate a correlation between the highly organized role of a bee in pollination with the organizational qualtiy of the card catalogue. Bair’s inspiration for native plants came from the Augustin Gattinger Papers that are housed in Vanderbilt Special Collections. In 1901, Gattinger, a botanist and medical doctor, published Flora of Tennessee and Philosophy of Botany, which represents his major contribution to the study of botany in the South.
Another component of the installation is a window display of jars of local honey that Bair collected from the region. “The different honey colors, qualities and containers tell the story of the pollen’s long journey from flower to table.”
Bair, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master of fine arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, has shown her work in museums and galleries across North America and Italy and has taught at the University of Utah.
“From A to B” is cosponsored by the Department of Art and the Office of the Arts and Creative Engagement at Vanderbilt.