swarm as part of the good of the hive initiative (2016)
ArtisT: matthew willey
location: Burt’s Bees headquarter
west wall facing West Pettigrew Street
Artist Matthew Willey is the founder of The Good of the Hive Initiative, and has committed to personally paint 50,000 honeybees – the number necessary for a healthy, thriving hive – in murals across America. Through art and social media engagement, The Good of the Hive raises awareness about the current struggle of the honeybees, celebrates their amazing behaviors, and draws attention to the inextricable connection between people and honeybees.
The Good of the Hive Initiative begins with the struggle of the honeybees, but it also views the hive as a metaphor for communities of people. Honeybees within the hive ‘think’ collectively; their immune system is collective: the health of the individual is based on the health of the collective. Whether that community is an actual honeybee hive or a community of human artists, kids in a school, military veterans, gay people, women with cancer, marginalized people, skateboarders, or the American people as a whole, the health and success of the individual relies heavily on the connections within the group– and consequently between the groups within the greater society.
When we connect, we thrive. This is the essence of The Good of the Hive Initiative. Matthew realized over the course of the last five years of obsessing about honeybees that his own path as an artist was more aligned to its truth when it was being channeled toward connection–connection to the honeybees, as well as to the hive in which he lives.
The swarm is an incredible, natural behavior of a healthy honeybee hive. It has been demonized by Hollywood as something aggressive and terrifying, but nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality it is one of the most elegant and sublime experiences in the natural world. The bees place themselves and their precious queen in an extremely vulnerable position for the possibility of growth. It is the natural expansion of a healthy, thriving, hive. It is an amazing example of the bees acting as one mind or super-organism. It is a symbol of a new beginning. Burt Shavitz’ first bees were ones he collected from a swarm that landed in his yard in Maine. By simply appearing, the bees inspired the business. Burt is quoted as saying, “It wasn’t as if I’d summoned these bees down, or gone looking for them. It was an act of God. It was a no brainer. Now I had a way of making some money. I had all of the tools and the knowledge, the literature, the ability to do just as my guru had done.” An age-old relationship of man to bee was honored. He had done the work to learn how to keep bees, and then the bees appeared.
Throughout his twenty-four year career of painting murals, Matthew Willey has brought original, one-of-a-kind beauty to walls of homes and businesses throughout the US. By combining the abilities of designer, scenic artist and painter, this skilled visionary craftsman literally spins line, tone and atmosphere from the bristles of his brush. The murals seem to grow, one stroke, one texture at a time, as he weaves the walls through his imagination.
Mural painting has been the base of his work throughout his career, but he also creates works on canvas, has written four screenplays and co-founded an educational company making Homer’s Odyssey and Greek mythology more accessible for teachers and students. His work has been featured in Veranda Magazine (cover), The Home & Garden Section of the New York Times, Interior Design Magazine and many other publications. He currently divides his time between New York City and Asheville, NC.