Published on 24 February, 2021

South Australian artist proves she is queen bee of Waterhouse

Visitors to the South Australian Museum’s Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize have voted 4000 Stories by South Australian artist Rebecca McEwan as their favourite in the People’s Choice Dr Wendy Wickes Memoriam Prize of 2020/21.

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Also named the winner of the Emerging artist category Rebecca McEwan gathered honey from beekeepers to fill tiny glass vessel drops to create the chandelier. Each vessel contains the life-time work of 2-3 bees.

When asked how it felt to be named the People’s Choice winner, Rebecca marvelled at the achievement.

“It’s overwhelming and exciting to know that my work resonated with so many people. To have it acknowledged first by the judging panel and then by the public is such a thrill. There are many amazing works in the exhibition, telling important stories about our natural world so I am surprised and honoured that my chandelier stood out as a favourite.”

Nearly 2,000 people voted in the People’s Choice, with 4000 Stories receiving 264 total votes. Rebecca McEwan takes home $5,000 in prize money.

Rebecca pondered on why her piece left a mark on visitors to the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize.

“I think the work really speaks with people on many different levels. Visually, the familiarity of honey and the form of the chandelier are things people connect with on a sensory level. The work also acts to tell the stories of bees and how we relate to them. I think nearly everyone has an awareness of the fragility of bees and our environment and my piece offers a visual depiction of how much honeybees make in their lifetime.”

“I really hope that my chandelier makes people reconsider not only the value we put on bees – native, European and honeybees but also the wider picture of the role of pollinators and insects in the balance of our ecosystem,” she added.

The People’s Choice Dr Wendy Wickes Memoriam Prize recognises the significance of public vote, a unique feature of the award and provides visitors with the opportunity to make their choice on the piece that most meaningfully reflects the spirit of the Waterhouse Prize. The People’s Choice prize is an embodiment of Wendy’s love of the exhibition.

Life-long partner, Michael Strautmanis who represents the prize on Wendy’s behalf says,

“Dr Wendy Wickes was one of the great supporters of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art prize, but somehow rarely agreed with the official judges. Unfortunately Wendy died just over 10 years ago, and there is no better way to remember her love of the Waterhouse, than to sponsor an award in her name that allows the people to choose the most significant and environmentally important work of art.”

The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize is on at the South Australian Museum until Monday 8 March. Tickets can be bought online or from the Museum.

South Australian Museum Director, and one of the prize’s judges, Mr Brian Oldman says the People’s Choice prize gives the public a voice.

“It’s no surprise Rebecca’s piece was a hit with visitors not only because of the beauty of the chandelier but also due to the exploration of the human connection with bees.”

“If you love bees, the South Australian Museum’s Bee Ecology display is also on now in the North Foyer,” Mr Oldman added.


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