This year Franconia Sculpture Park provided support for two new sculpture projects as part of the Horst M. Rechelbacher Pollinator Project, a new partnership between the Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation, The University of Minnesota Bee Lab, and Franconia Sculpture Park. The partnership is an interdisciplinary effort to support pollinator health at the Horst M. Rechelbacher Organic Farm in Osceola, Wisconsin. Two new outdoor sculptures, Tea Hive by Carissa Samaniego, CO, and Beyond Violet by Bridget Beck, OR, and Joy Feuer, CA, have recently been installed at the Horst M. Rechelbacher Organic Farm to engage and educate the public about the importance of pollinators.
Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on Beyond Violet, while we turn the spotlight today on Carissa Samaniego and her recent installation Tea Hive. Born in Trinidad, Colorado, and now living in Denver, Carissa has spent several years in Minnesota and has been a part of the Franconia family as a former intern, artist, and staff member.
Describe your creative process and influences:
I often approach artmaking from a personal perspective (through my own experience of memory, tradition, and place) because it gives the work an authentic voice that connects to a larger cultural history in America. My practice follows a process that involves mining my personal archive to reimagine the familiar. I collect source material from vernacular photographs, home movies, and fieldwork in the places I grew up. On-site research helps to develop connections to the landscape, material environment, visual heritage, and ephemera of the place.
Tell us about your project for the H.M. Rechelbacher Foundation, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad and Franconia Sculpture Park:
Tea Hive is an open-air gathering space specifically designed for the Horst M. Rechelbacher and University of Minnesota Bee Squad Pollinator Project Sanctuary. It combines the form and function of a chashitsu (architectural space designed for tea ceremonies) with the aesthetics of a honeycomb beehive. It is a space that can be used for gathering and socializing or for quiet, contemplative practices.
Creating this conceptually and aesthetically hybrid space emerges from a familiar place of investigation in my creative practice. My work explores the intersection of place and identity, emerging from my own experience of growing up geographically, culturally, and ethnically mixed. Raised between a reserved Midwestern household in Minnesota and a close-knit Latino family in New Mexico, the diversity of family traditions, visual heritage, and vernacular landscapes of these two environments is undeniable. I am interested in the spot of convergence, the in-between place where my own identity has been crafted from dissimilar places of origin. Tea Hive borrows eastern and western cultural traditions and architectural designs to create a hybrid space for enjoying the stunning landscape of the pollinator prairies at the Horst M. Rechelbacher Organic Farm.
How does the Tea Hive relate to or differ from your other large-scale public work?
It’s different in that I was responding to an invitation for a proposal to come up with a project around a specific theme. That’s not typically how I work, but it was a welcome challenge to come up with a project that met the needs of the site, incorporated pollinators, and considered the conceptual and framework of my creative practice. It’s similar in that I am interested in architectural spaces and structures and like other projects of mine (for example, Deer Blind or Social Observatory) Tea Hive is a built structure that you can spend time in and be surrounded by.
What significance have bees and other pollinators had in your life, and what discoveries were gained during the research of your project?
To be honest, other than loosely following the disappearance of bees in the media in recent years, pollinators haven’t really been on my radar. However, this project allowed me to do a lot of research around native pollinators in the St. Croix River Valley and I am particularly interested in the plants that attract bees, are pollinated by bees, and can be consumed by humans. I’m now working on including a pollinator garden into my yard back in Colorado!
What was your biggest challenge in carrying out this project?
Well…I was 8+ months pregnant when working onsite so I was physically limited and needed to rely on hired labor to install the project. That was a completely new way of working for me and I learned a lot about communicating plans through technical drawings and how to manage a job site. Even though I was physically inhibited at times because of the pregnancy, it was a really great learning opportunity for me that I hope to carry on to other large-scale public projects.
How has your experience at Franconia Sculpture Park, whether past or present, supported you in this project?
I feel support from Franconia emerging in different ways as my professional career develops. For this particular project, John was really helpful in guiding the process of working with fabricators and the technicians onsite. It was my first time managing a project commissioned for a specific site, and I knew I could call John if I had any questions along the way. I “grew up” at Franconia in terms of my professional career – I started as an Intern Artist, then worked on staff for five years, and now returned for this fellowship. Franconia has provided opportunities for me to grow as an artist at every stage of my career and as I work to pursue other public art calls, I will have this project in my portfolio to demonstrate my ability and capacity to work on site-specific large-scale projects.
Do you have any other sculptural projects coming up that we should know about?
I have a few in the works, details to come soon… I’ll be posting news on my website http://www.carissasamaniego.com
This project was made possible by The Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation, The University of Minnesota Bee Squad, and Franconia Sculpture Park, with additional support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.