Connected \\ May 13, 2020
Like so many of us in the past few weeks, I have been grappling with the all-around uncertainty that this pandemic has precipitated. Family, friends, home, work and nature have been my go-to sources of grounding and balance.
I recently moved, so my sense of home was already in upheaval as the world around me was changing so dramatically. As I have unpacked familiar things, possessions imbued with memories and meaning, my house is slowly becoming a home. My family and I explored the surrounding neighborhood, woods and wetlands. I am finding joy in watching spring bloom all around me and the animals and insects beginning their busy work. I carved out a space for a home office, from which I now collaborate with my colleagues and “see” them, nearly daily. I find it comforting to be amidst these familiar sights and sounds in this perilous time, all the while missing so many other daily experiences that I have come to know and hold dear.
PEM’s art collection is another source of solace and familiarity to me. After more than 21 years of working with the collection, so many of the artworks have become like old friends. The sight of them is calming and reassuring, and their significance surprisingly relevant right now. PEM’s Korean art collection speaks to me through its reverence for the natural world and ability to convey meaning through familiar patterns and motifs. Perhaps because the effort that I have been engaged in - nesting and creating a home, I am particularly struck by the symbolism in this beehive, made by artists in Korea in the 1800s.
Artists in Korean, decorated beehive, 1800s. Hollowed tree trunk, pigments and iron. Museum purchase, 1927. Peabody Essex Museum. E20114. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.
This beehive has been ingeniously crafted from a hollowed-out log with a natural hole in the side, serving as an entrance and exit for its inhabitants. The walls have been adorned with carved and painted flora and fauna such as cranes, deer and pine trees. The patterns on the sides have been chosen with great purpose as they are symbolic of long life, an aspirational sentiment bestowed by the creator of the hive upon the bees that called this work of art home.