Aganetha Dyck

Short Biography

Aganetha Dyck is an acclaimed Canadian artist known internationally for her sculptural collaborations with live honeybees and her transformation of domestic objects and processes. 

Dyck was born in 1937 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to a Mennonite family. In the prodigious critical literature her art is often related to her rural upbringing and her life as a housewife. Dyck moved with her husband and family to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1972 where she studied pottery, batik, Salish weaving and art history at the Prince Albert Community College and where she was mentored by Professor George Glen. The family returned to Winnipeg in 1976 and Dyck had her first solo show in 1979, having arrived late to a full-time practice because of family responsibilities. Between 1980 and 1982 Dyck studied art history at the University of Winnipeg.

Her early work is described as transforming domestic processes into fine art, thereby validating activities that are traditionally considered feminine. In her early work, Dyck used household materials such as buttons, wool fabrics, and cigarettes. A 1984 Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibition of Dyck's work featured several hundred jars of buttons prepared and cooked using culinary techniques.

Dyck is best known for her work with honeybees, which began in 1989 when she rented beehives, and is described by her as a collaboration. Dyck places objects into beehives and allows insects to build honeycomb on the objects, sometimes over the course of years.This work is exemplified by Glass Dress: Lady in Waiting (1992 ‑1998), in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Her work with honeybees has drawn attention from the press, and Dyck has been featured in the CBC television show The Nature of Things, with David Suzuki. Dyck has collaborated with beekeepers and entomologists in making her sculptures. In addition to appreciating the beauty of the honeycomb, Dyck is interested in environmental issues, specifically the power of the small and in inter-species communication. Her research asks questions about the ramifications all living beings would experience should honeybees disappear from earth. 

Since the late seventies her work has been shown in hundreds of solo and group exhibitions across Canada, in the U.S., England, France and in the Netherlands and is held in collections of major galleries including the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada. The Winnipeg Art Gallery organized a major touring retrospective of her work in 1995. In 2000, an important exhibition of her "interspecies communication" bee work called Nature as Language, curated by Dr. Serena Keshavjee, happened at Winnipeg's Gallery One One One, and in 2001 the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris organized a survey that toured to Passages, centre d'art contemporain, Troyes, France. Dyck's work with bees has been featured in Paris, Rotterdam, and at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England. A selection of her awards includes the Manitoba Arts Council Award of Distinction (2007), Governor General`s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2007), Winnipeg's Art City Star Award (2013), Winnipeg Art Council's Making a Mark Award (2014). Dyck's show "Collaborations" was featured at Burnaby Art Gallery 2009. In 2018, Close Knit was included in Thunderstruck: Physical Landscapes, a Canada Council exhibition about contemporary dance. Current and upcoming exhibition activity includes shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2019), The Evergreen Cultural Centre in Abbotsford, B.C. (2019-2020), The Owens Art Gallery (2019-2020), the Art Gallery of Regina (2020) and the Comox Valley Art Gallery (2021).

Much has been written about her work including the book Aganetha Dyck: The Power of the Small, by Miriam Jordan and Julian Jason Haladyn, published by Blue Medium Press, 2014.