The Artist in the Beehive: Chris Rodiger and his Extraordinary Creation​ - Center for the Arts and Humanities

The Artist in the Beehive: Chris Rodiger and his Extraordinary Creation​

The Center for the Arts and Humanities is always happy to support any students who are embarking on an ambitious project in the arts and humanities. This was the case with Colby senior Chris Rodiger, a Studio Art major and talented artist who received a “Big Ideas” grant from the Center to create “the Beehive”.

So what is the Beehive? Chris explained that he took an Introduction to Sculpture class with Associate Professor of Art Bradley Borthwick last fall, and the two had a conversation about Californian artists who built artistic camper vans. Chris was inspired to build his own mobile studio, a place where he could keep all of his paints and canvases, and which he could take with him as he travelled throughout Maine.

He had fallen in love with “plein air” painting, the act of painting landscapes outdoors from real life vistas, and a mobile studio would allow him to access many new and beautiful locations.

So, with the help of Professor Borthwick, Chris drew up plans for his new studio, which he christened “The Beehive”. With material costs provided by the Center, Chris did all of the construction himself, building the beehive out of light, resilient cedar wood, with octagonal windows and a bunk for sleeping during overnight trips. 

The structure is entirely detachable, made up of several separate sections that can be removed and stored. The whole project took him about 500 hours and required that he stay at Colby a month after the end of the spring semester to complete construction.

But once it was complete, all the hard work was worth it. Chris spent the rest of the summer driving up and down the Maine coast, painting a new location every day; often more than one a day, in fact, as he told us that he created well over a hundred paintings this summer alone. 

Chris has only been painting for two years, but he is a prolific artist with more extensive experience than many who have been painting for far longer. Even after the summer ended, Chris has continued to create a new painting or drawing every day. When asked how he can maintain this rapid pace, Chris replied: “It makes me happy, it resets my brain. It’s sort of meditative. It doesn’t feel like a burden, it’s my focus every day, to find a way to get into that mode.” He added that going out into nature is what truly inspires him, saying that “Painting en pleine air is much more enjoyable than being in a studio; and it makes my paintings more meaningful to me, and to the viewer. I work not just from sight, but from temperature, sounds, smells. And most importantly, I try to convey how each place made me feel.”

Colby Communications recently created a video about Chris and his Beehive, titled “Painting ‘En Pleine Air’ from a Mobile Tiny House”, which you can watch on YouTube here.

Besides receiving a “Big Ideas” grant, Chris has been involved with other Center endeavors both in the past and present. Two of his paintings grace front and back covers of this magazine, and many of his works have been published in FAUNA Environmental Humanities Literary and Art Magazine, which is also run out of the Center. Chris has brought so much to the Center and the Colby community as a whole, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

To purchase Chris’s work, please visit his website here.

Article written by Ayla Fudala, Communications Coordinator