Painting the beehive of a lively home

Empty hive syndrome

Beehives (photo credit: LIAT ELBELING)
(photo credit: LIAT ELBELING)
In her years of raising two boys, Anna Fromchenko picked up countless items her children left around the house. Cleaning up after them is a reflexive act for the veteran artist, so much so that she rarely gives much thought to the object in her hands. But it was during such an instinctive ritual Fromchenko encountered an item that would immediately and profoundly change her artistic work and, as such, her life.
“My son is a film director. He was making a film about soldiers who are desperate to get a ‘Gimmel’ – day off due to health issues. One of the soldiers had tried to get stung by bees in order to get a Gimmel. My son was using industrial beehives in shooting and he chucked them in my backyard when he was finished and said he’d be back to get them. A year passed and he didn’t come for them. I got annoyed,” smiles Fromchenko, “so I decided to take care of them myself. I picked one up and felt, instantly, that I was pulled into a different world.”
Fromchenko is a painter by trade. Born in Romania, she immigrated to Israel at the age of seven. It was around that time her parents, a doctor and an engineer, noticed her talent in drawing. “My mother encouraged me. She took me to teachers right away. At 16, I enrolled in the Kalisher School of Art, which was run by Prof. Arie Margoshilski. I would take the bus from my house in Givatayim to the school by myself, it was near the old central bus station in Tel Aviv,” she recalls. Over the course of her career, which has taken Fromchenko around the world to show her work in both solo and group exhibitions, she has touched on other disciplines and materials, often using both two – and three-dimensional pieces in her projects. “In my art I touch on concepts. The images draw the viewer in. At first they enjoy them and then they begin to ask questions,” she says.
Fromchenko sits behind a white desk inside a white room set off from the otherwise starkly white Braverman Gallery on Eilat Street, where her solo show “245” is on display. On the desk are neatly stacked piles of documents bearing different writings on the artwork at hand; one is a poem she wrote another an essay written by exhibition curator Yair Barak. Her glasses reflect the video installation, which is playing on a loop on the three walls facing her. Chilling, rhythmic music serves as an underscore to her story, composed by Asher Goldshmidt specifically for this work.
The screen portray images of the inside of industrial beehives, photographed and blown up to fill the entire wall. When seen on this scale, the small scratches, indentations and fibers present an image of a lost civilization. They appear primal and ancient, evoking textbooks filled with archaeological relics, cave drawings or sketches of communities long gone.
On the second floor, three images of a totem pole composed of these very hives quietly hang on one wall. In the center of the lofted space are epoxy imprints of the inside of the hives shining in gold and cream.
It has been a long time since bees have touched these hives; however, looking at these artifacts, one can feel the flutter of their wings, imagine their buzzing. “The first thing that drew me to the hives was the beauty. Inside them I saw this pure beauty, the absolute beauty of nature. We can search for beauty everywhere, we try to create it in so many ways, but nature already has presented pure, perfect beauty,” says Fromchenko. It was only after she began to work with the relics of these animals that she came to understand the plight of bees.  
“Progress is killing bees. Their catastrophes are ours. They are enslaved, without bees, there is no agriculture. But today 40% of the world’s bees have gone extinct.” She cites famed art critic and writer John Berger, who wrote extensively on man’s relationship to animals, “an approach to animals often prefigured an approach to man.”
Considering bees, the way they live and the way they are treated has caused Fromchenko to take stock of her own habits. “It is so easy to throw things away, to waste, to use carelessly. I always knew this but this project has humbled me,” she admits. Fromchenko reached out to two Israeli companies who are working on solutions to the global pollination crisis and has read up on a few others in other countries. “There are thrilling projects that are working to replace bee pollination with drones. These are solutions that mankind will have to take big steps within the near future.”
‘245’ will be open through October 26. For more information, visit