The artist’s experience of the natural world filtered through their imagination and expressed in their work allow a viewer the chance to focus attention, respond emotionally, find meaning in the work or sometimes in a more profound way, a deeper consciousness of existence itself.
Climate change, pollution, collapsing eco-systems, and species annihilation – these are present scientific realities that challenge the existence we take for granted.
Fortunately, Science and Art are no longer strange bedfellows. Many artists sensitive to the changes in the natural world have become some of the strongest voices and activists for the planet by collaborating with scientists. In doing so, sculptors, painters, photographers, architects and mixed media artists are reporting their vision and communicating what is so difficult to get across – the immensity of climate change which seems overwhelming, and what is personal to each and every one. Artists can bridge the gap between climate science and emotion through a narrative that conveys relevancy and immediacy to the individual. When that happens, Art can transmit a sense of personal responsibility, change behavior and ultimately affect decision making.
Climart Professor Christian Klockner, an environmental psychologist at Norwegian University of Science and Technology discovered that visual art using more emotive and personally relevant language may help bridge the divide between scientific information and personal responsibility. To prove their research, he and his team chose artist Michael Pinsky’s installation “Pollution Pods” – 5 interconnected geodesic domes each containing the air quality of 5 global cities recreated with smell, humidity, visibility and temperature. Evidence showed that audiences who walked through the Pods were reached emotionally by having the visceral experience of breathing the air of the different cities. First set in Trondheim, Norway, the Pods were installed at Somerset House in London in time to celebrate Earth Day 2018.
Diane Burko Diane Burko’s art focuses on monumental geological phenomena. She has investigated locations on the ground and in the air with cameras and sketchpads. From rain forests to glaciers and active volcanoes, her work addresses landscape, climate change and environmental activism. Her project, Politics of Snow, investigates historical comparisons through images culled from glacial geological data recorded throughout the world. Her research expeditions explore the impacts of climate change with emphasis on glacier melting and coral bleaching.
Naziha Mestaoui One Heart One Tree is one of many projects that were inspired by her travels among aboriginal peoples in the Amazon, India and Oman and is about the interconnected relationship of Man to Nature. It projects virtual forests onto city spaces as digital trees grow in rhythm with a person’s heartbeat – viewers connecting to the series via a smart phone sensor. With each virtual plant, a physical one is grown in plantations throughout the world from Europe and Latin America to Africa and Asia.
The Canary Project was created by the artist duo Susannah Saylor and Edward Morris. It produces art and media about ecological issues. They use diverse media and participatory projects. Originally founded in 2006 as a project to photograph landscapes throughout the world where scientists are studying the impact of climate change, they have since supported diverse projects involving more than100 artists, designers, writers, educators and scientists.
Eve Mosher’s acclaimed project High Water Line was her public artwork on the New York City waterfront that created an immediate visual and local understanding of the effects of climate change. Eve marked the 10-feet above sea level line by drawing a blue chalk line. The line marks the extent of increased flooding brought on by climate change. During the summer of 2007, Eve walked, chalked and marked almost 70 miles of coastline.
Mel Chin is a conceptual artist and activist. In his work entitled Unmoored, he collaborated with Microsoft to create a site-specific mixed reality experience in NYC’s Times Square. Using Holo Lens and a custom mobile phone AR app, his 60 foot tall sculpture of a shipwreck, Wake, appears to be under 26 feet of water, imagining a time when climate change has gone unchecked. Through the virtual reality headset, the shipwreck rises to the surface of the flooded Times Square, is joined by countless ships and becomes part of a nautical traffic jam above the avenues. At the street level you see plankton and other new marine life.
Xavier Cortada’s is a science-art practice oriented toward the environment and social engagement. He has created art installations in the Earth’s poles to generate awareness about global climate change. As a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artist and Writers Fellow he used the moving ice sheet under the South Pole as an instrument to make time. He has worked with botanists on eco-art projects for forest mangroves, native trees and wildflowers and in the Florida Everglades with LTER scientists to tell the story of rising sea levels.
John Gerard Irish artist John Gerrard flew a drone over Spindletop, Texas, the site of the world’s first major oil discovery and where the land is now barren. Taking photos from the drone, he recreated it virtually for his artwork, Western Flag, a towering, computer-generated flag belching out black smoke. It runs as if in real time: the landscape turns dark at sundown in Texas and is lit during the daytime.
Zaria Forman does large scale drawings with pastels by taking thousands of photographs of landscapes and relying on her memory. In 2016 she was invited to join NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge an airborne science mission that maps ice changes at both poles. Travelling to the Arctic and south to the equator she has captured the story of polar ice melting and the rising seas. She hopes to emotionally connect the viewer with the beauty of these places with the hope that if you can experience the sublimity you will be inspired to protect them.
Olafur Eliasson’s Ice Watch was 12 large blocks of ice cast off from the Greenland ice sheet harvested from a fjord and presented in a clock formation in public places. The work raises awareness of climate change by providing a direct experience of the reality of melting artic ice.
Chris Jordan, a photographer and artist talks about how we cannot deal with the “incomprehensible numbers” in what is happening in the world and the social consequences of our decisions as consumers. Midway: Message from the Gyre is a series of photographs depicting rotting carcasses of baby albatrosses of Midway Atoll. The albatrosses die as a result of being fed plastic by their parents who find it floating in the middle of the ocean and mistake it for food.
Mary Mattingly is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work explores issues of sustainability, climate change and displacement. She combines photography, performance, portable architecture and sculptural ecosystems into poetic visions of adaptation and survival.
David Maisel has created powerful aerial photographs that expose the impact of industry, agriculture, urban sprawl, and other forms of human intervention on the landscape. From such a distance, the environments, including lakes, open pit mines, and croplands, appear as painterly abstractions. The viewer fluctuates between the visual allure and a sense of unease. He documents sites irretrievably transformed that reveal man’s damaging consumption of the Earth.
Katie Paterson In her 2007 project Vatnajokull (the sound of) Katie Paterson an acclaimed Scottish artist, left a gallery empty apart from a telephone number on the wall. Visitors calling the number were connected to a microphone embedded in Europe’s largest glacier, which has been eroding since 1940. All callers could hear was the creak of ice and the trickle of melting water.
Aviva Rahmani is an ecological artist whose projects involve collaboration with teams of scientists, planners, environmentalists and other artists. Her Blue Rocks project drew attention to a degraded estuary in Maine which helped to restore 25 acres of wetlands. Her Blue Trees saw volunteers painting notes on trees that were to be cut down for a gas pipeline to create a symphony on Earth Day 2016.
Lorenzo Quinn’s sculpture entitled Support intended to make a statement on Climate Change. His sculpture is the first sculpture to be placed in the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. The monumental sculpture depicts two enormous hands emerging from the Grand Canal to protect and support the historic Ca’Sagredo Hotel.
Anne Noble is an acclaimed New Zealand photographer. Her series of exhibitions entitled Nature Study is about honeybees. She believes we have a need for images and stories to make meaning of human experience. She looks at bees not just to make photographs, but find ways to engender a psychic connection between humans and the ecosystem.
Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo’s photographic images are disturbing evidence of the cruel reality in Africa. His series called The Hell of Copper, was taken in Accra, Ghana and portrays the life of people working on the “cemetery of abandoned computers” where they set on fire and burn electronic equipment waste shipped from the U.S. and Europe to isolate the copper they can sell despite it being a dangerous, poisonous procedure.
Isaac Cordal is a Spanish artist whose work involves sculpture and photography in the urban environment. His 15 centimeter high figurines are placed in absurd, dramatic or quotidian scenes sometimes submerged in water. In Waiting for Climate Change his suited figures stand atop wooden poles on the coast, the water rising around them checking their cell phones, seemingly prepared but doing nothing.
Ravi Agarwal is an Indian photographer and environmental activist. His artwork examines sustainability of ways of life or photography as witness. His work exposes the destruction of the natural world and the communities that rely heavily on them. His images are of parched fields, the polluted Yamuna River, crumbling buildings and people laboring on the edges of society.
Cai Guo-Qiang is a Chinese artist from Quanzhou in Fujian Province concerned about the environment. To illustrate the problem of smog in China, his work The Bund Without Us is was made with gun power which was then exploded to blur the famous Shanghai Skyline.
Yao Lu is a Chinese photographer who makes composite images that masquerade as traditional landscape painting. But on closer examination the scenery reveals layers of industrial pollution offering a critical assessment of China’s exploding metropolitan growth.
Yongwoo Lee is the director of the Shanghai Himalayas Museum. He developed a hybrid event called the Shanghai Project to create a participatory platform where people can exchange ideas which is unusual in China. One affecting work in the Project was Exit a video installation by the poet Paul Virilio and architecture firm Diller, Scofidio & Renfro charting trends in deforestation and migration around the world.
Tan Zi Xi is a Chinese artist passionate about the ocean and environmental pollution. At the Shanghai museum she premiered her large scale installation called Plastic Ocean which became part of a project in India called the Sassoon Dock Art Project where the local women helped her collect, clean and string together thousands of pieces of recycled oceanic debris which raised awareness about plastic waste and consumption.
In Uganda, the Kabarole Research and Resource Center started Annual Street Art Festivals on Climate Change in the town of Fort-Portal. Participants watch films, performances and view the art work of a group of young artists, Jabuliani Africa painting depicting climate change effects and how to protect the environment.
MITCHELL JOACHIM’s Terreform ONE is a nonprofit design/architectural group that promotes smart green design in cities. Its mission is fitting a project within a natural world setting, creating urban self-sufficiency infrastructures and bio design.
ABASAI ROSBOROUGH is a fashion firm in New York. Their clothing is made of all natural fibers and from deadstock fabrics found in warehouses throughout the City. They practice sustainability and take on environmental and social issues. In 2018, one collection featured photographs of melting glaciers.
LUCY & JORGE ORTA are visual artists who work in design, drawing and sculpture to address key social and ecological challenges. They focus on water scarcity, the global food chain, pollution, ecosystems and climate change. They received the Green Leaf Award for artistic excellence with an environmental message from The U.N. Environment Programme.
JASON DeCAIRES TAYLOR’S sculptures are underwater artificial reefs installed at various locations around the world. Each sculpture provides a home for fish and crustaceans and encourages coral larvae to attach and thrive.
AMY M. YOUNGS creates biological art, interactive sculptures and digital media that explore interdependences between technology, plants and animals. She believes ecologies exist everywhere on many scales, and many that we depend on are invisible to us.
SHELBY PRINDAVILLE is an artist and sculptor interested in the human role of shaping an ecological balance, and the fragility and resilience of the natural world.
ANGELA HASELTINE POZZI created Washed Ashore, an organization with the mission of educating awareness about plastic pollution. From plastic gathered on the beaches of Oregon, they construct larger-than-life sculptures of the animals affected by it.
ALFIE BONNANO is a Danish artist and an exponent of Land Art known worldwide for his works that combine art and the environment.
AGNES DENES is a conceptual artist recognized internationally for her earthworks. Her best known creation was her 1982 “Wheatfields” – two acres of landfill in New York City that she planted with wheat over a four month period. She repeated the project in 2015 in Milan for the Expo.
ANDY GOLDSWORTHY is a Scottish artist known for his outdoor, site-specific installations involving an endless array of natural materials. He crafts work in a landscape, and then documents these collaborations with nature through photography showing their inevitable changes.
NILS UDO is one of the main figures in the environmental art movement. He is known for creating “utopian” earth sculptures in nature.
NEWTON and HELEN MAYER HARRISON are among the leading pioneers of the Eco-Art movement, collaborating with biologists, ecologists, urban planners and architects on projects that support biodiversity and community development.
MARY O’BRIEN AND DANIEL MCCORMICK’S sculptures are made to rehabilitate the ecosystems where they are placed. Their sculptures buttress riverbanks and shelter wetlands from erosion.
MAYA LIN’s web-based multimedia memorial “What is Missing?” is an on-going project launched on Earth Day 2012. It is an interactive global map, a collection of a multitude of natural sounds, core videos, animations, timelines and images to create a bank of the past and present in nature. It mixes art and science and aims at raising awareness about the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats.
ANDREA POLLI creates artworks designed to raise awareness of environmental issues. They express scientific data obtained through her collaborations with scientists and engineers and have taken the form of sound art, vehicle-based works, public light works, mobile media experiences, bio-art and design. She has created and presented public artworks at many locations including a wind-powered light work covering the Rachel Carson Bridge in Pittsburgh.
JUSTIN BRICE GUARIGLIA is an artist and activist known for his photographic, sculptural and public works that address ecological issues. His text-based repurposed highway signs installations feature quotations from philosophers, scientists, poets and activists and will fill the Courtyard at Somerset House in London on Earth Day 2019.
KASIA MOLGA is a media artist/designer/environmentalist and creative coder who works on the intersection of art, science, design and technology. She examines the changes in our relationship to the planet in the context of climate change and unforeseen futures in an increasingly technologically mediated world.
CATHERINE CHALMERS’ work is at the intersection of art, science and nature. She aims to give form to the richness, as well as the brutality and indifference that often characterize our relationship with animals.
AL GRUMET is a multi-media artist whose work combines digital photography and traditional painting. In colorful dreamscapes, his work depicts human choices gone awry and characters at war with their environment.
ALEJANDRO DURAN uses photography, video and installations that examine the impact of consumer culture on nature. Washed Up is an installation project using plastic debris deposited on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline. The plastic found was from 58 countries and 6 continents.
PAM LONGOBARDI’s artwork involves painting, photography and installations. She started The Drifters Project to collect, document and transform ocean plastic into creative visual statements about global consumption and to generate conversation about conservation.
DIANNA COHEN is a multi-media visual artist, painter and curator known for two and three-dimensional works using recycled plastic bags sewn together. She is Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, an organization working against plastic pollution.
Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris created The Canary Project that produces art using diverse media to investigate and contribute to ecological consciousness about climate change, extinction, food systems and water resources. Their projects use hundreds of artists, designers, scientists, writers and volunteers.
ALEXANDRE DANG combines his environmental concern and humanistic outlook with a scientific approach – in particular his “Dancing Solar Flowers” and “Wind Flowers”. In a “field”, the flowers move by solar and wind power raising questions about our use of energy and renewable energy.
ALEXIS ROCKMAN makes art to support a campaign for conservation. He depicts darkly surreal, apocalyptic scenarios in which many species struggle to surmount toxic conditions and where primordial or feral creatures are pictured as the survivors.
ROBERT BATEMAN is one of Canada’s foremost artists, a painter of wildlife and a naturalist recognized by the Audubon Society as “one of the 20th century’s heroes of conservation”. He is a spokesman for many environmental preservation issues.
JILL PELTO creates “Glaciogenic Art”, her passion to construct new ways to communicate science through art. She paints watercolors to raise awareness around climate change data.
SCOTT GREENE works in New Mexico which has influenced his paintings, both the ecological concerns impacting the region’s quality of life, and the correlation between environmental exploitation and poverty.
TESS FELIX creates portraits made from plastic debris which are a response to the degraded state of the ocean and threatened marine life.
KAREN HACKENBERT’s paintings and drawings take a subversive approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation, doing tongue-in-cheek imaginary post-consumer sea creatures and crafting beach trash in provocative visual juxtapositions to form an idea.
ISABELLA KIRKLAND uses old fashioned methods to paint the images of species that will stand as witness; to make iconic images that identify and bear witness to the fate of individual species lost during the Anthropocene era.
MANDY BARKER is a photographer whose work focuses on plastic debris in the ocean. In 2012 she traveled on a sea expedition through the Japan Tsunami debris field. Working with scientists, her objective is to raise awareness of marine pollution and highlight its harm.
TUULA NARHINEN is a visual artist in Helsinki, Finland. For Baltic Sea Plastique, sculptures are made of plastic washed up on the shore of Harakka Island and presented as “sea creatures”. Her work is derived from nature: tree branches draw the movement of wind, built instruments record the pattern of waves, and extracted minerals from rock are used as paint.
LAURA BALL’S work combines her technical achievements in watercolor and graphite images on paper with her concern for endangered species.
NATHALIE BERGESE is a French digital artist who draws endangered species, her work an attempt to give them life and “keep the illusion there is still time to act for their preservation.”
RICHARD AND JUDITH LANG have collected over 2 tons of plastic debris from Kehoe Beach in Northern California since 1999. They fashion it into colorful works of art that show the material simply as it is, the detritus of our throwaway culture.
LOUIS MASAI’s work is a visual voice for endangered animals and the natural environment. Masai spends half his time in the studio using pen and inks, paint and brushes, sculpture and screen printing and the other half outside, painting murals on the side of buildings.
JOHN DAHLSEN is an environmental artist who uses ocean litter to construct sculptures, totems, as still life for paintings and prints, and wall works.
Diane Tuft has been documenting the beauty and fragility of the environment through photographs since 1998. With infrared film she explores the light spectrums that cannot be seen by the naked eye. She photographs in Utah, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, Antarctica and The Arctic Ocean documenting the visual effects of climate change.
Andreco is an Italian street artist whose most recent installation, part of his Climate Art Project, was orchestrated for the 2019 St+Art Festival’s multi-city project in India. He used ink from Air-Ink, the company that makes the unique art-making material from air pollution.
Banksy is the anonymous British street artist, film maker, and political, social and environmental activist who creates powerful images. His artwork is done on street walls and canvases using a distinct stenciling style. His work is subversive, humorous and satirical.
Italian street artist BLU, who keeps his real identity a secret, paints very large murals to show a strong message tackling political events and environmental changes. BLU has a signature style and paints his pieces in urban and industrial areas.
Shepard Fairey is one of the most influential of all modern street artists. Well known for his public art, he uses stencils, screen-prints, stickers, collages, sculptures, posters, paintings and murals. At the Jacob Lewis Gallery in 2015 his solo exhibition On Our Hands showed works focused on climate change. He stated in an interview at the time that climate change and the lack of response to it were the things that concerned him most.
Faith47 is one of the most well-known South African street artists and her work can be found around the world. Common themes across Faith47’s work include political problems from environmental destruction to border abolition and humanitarian issues. She works on road signs, doors and walls and in abandoned places using spray paint, ink, graphite, oil paint and collage.
ICY and SOT
Icy and Sot are brothers born in Tabriz, Iran who started out practicing street art in their country. Unauthorized artworks are severely punished in Iran and they eventually moved to the United States. They have since branched out into sculpture, photography and public interventions as well as wall murals. Their show human nature in Los Angeles focused on climate change.
Nevercrew is a Swiss street art group founded in 1996 by Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni. It creates large format murals and installations. Their work centers on environmental and social issues and the relationship mankind has with the natural world.
Alexandre Orion is a Brazilian street artist and multimedia artist. In 2016 he created Ossuary, an intervention in one of São Paulo’s road tunnels, using pieces of cloth to remove some of the thick layer of soot from vehicle exhaust impregnating sidewalls. The tunnel became a catacomb with over 3,500 hand-designed skulls reminding people that the black soot on the tunnel walls also darkens our lungs and our lives.
Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is PangeaSeed Foundation’s program that brings the message of ocean conservation. Artists travel to places around the world to draw wall murals related to the ocean. Called “Artivism” – the work is designed to educate and raise critical environmental issues. In December 2019 they will create a series of public artworks in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands to help raise awareness and add vibrancy to the community still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Pejac is a Spanish painter with a minimalistic aesthetic. Pejac poetically uses urban canvases to discuss social, economic and environmental issues. His work blends with the elements around it instead of overshadowing them.
ROA is a graffiti and street artist from Belgium. He creates works on the streets of cities across Europe, the United States, Australia, Asia, New Zealand and Africa. ROA generally paints wild or urban animals and birds that are native to the area being painted.
YANTR is a graffiti artist from Delhi, India. His name means “machine”. He travels across India to paint murals in major cities. He created the Parmanu Muskan – a Buddha wearing a mask to create awareness of environmental issues. He also uses his work to highlight endangered species.
Yoro is a Hawaiian artist professionally known as HULA, who incorporates his artwork into nature, and not vice-versa. He paints his murals on precarious surfaces: melting icebergs, the burnt bark of trees and remote waterside walls at the mercy of rising tides, among others. The transient nature of the works, which are destined to naturally disappear shortly after their creation, is used to bring attention to problems afflicting the environment.
SONNY – South Africa
Sonny is a South African street artist whose work aims to raise awareness about endangered animals. His artwork began with a focus on African Animals, but he has begun to selectively paint a variety of animals around the world. He paints them with distinctive patterns derived from their respective countries interwoven on the bodies to show how tied animals are to their environment.
Ernest Zacharevic is a Lithuanian street artist who became interested in the palm oil industry and how it has damaged large parts of Indonesia. He partnered with the Sumatra Orangutan Society to form “Splash and Burn”, a campaign to make people aware of the problem. He invited a team of artists to join him and famous figures in the street art scene participated in this grassroots art activism including Mark Jenkins and Isaac Cordal. In remote Indonesian villages and towns they produced haunting work.
Art Works for Change was established in 2008 and expands upon the efforts of a team of artists and social change leaders who produce acclaimed traveling museum exhibitions focused on social and environmental themes.
Cape Farewell in the U.K. is an organization that brings artists and scientists together internationally. For 17 years Cape Farewell has worked with artists and climate scientists and exhibited worldwide as well as produced films drawing attention to climate change.
Fossil Free Culture is a collective of artists, activists and researchers and critics working at the intersection of art and climate action to confront oil and gas sponsorship of cultural intuitions in the Netherlands through unsolicited art performances in institutions that accept such sponsorship.
Imagine 2020 is a network of 10 EU arts organizations funded by Creative Europe focusing on raising awareness in the cultural field around the issues of the socio-ecological crises. It funds research and development, artistic commissions and sharing of resources under the umbrella of art and ecology.
Climarte is a not-for-profit Australian organization, committed to bringing together a broad alliance of arts organizations, practitioners, administrators, patrons and academics from across the entire arts sector. It is directed at human induced climate change.
The Green Museum is an online museum and collaborative tool about environmental art that hopes to address challenges facing artists and arts institutions when it comes to presenting and discussing environmental art.
Artists & Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic work about climate change.
Human Nature connects artists with organizations to enable the creation of environmental art in public places, to convey stories and ideas about the natural world. They work with street artists, sculptors, fine artists, photographers and film makers.
Art & Social Activism is an organization that amplifies the voices of socially engaged artists, makers, and designers through festivals, spotlight projects, a monthly zine and by collaborations with peer cultural institutions and social justice organizations. They produce 4-week long pop-up art festivals, and host workshops and panel discussions.
|Bambook Curtain Studio||New Taipei Studio, New Taiwan|
|Bernheim||Clermont, Kentucky, USA|
|Blodel Reserve||Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA|
|Caldera||Sisters, Oregon USA|
|Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology||East Jordan, Michigan USA|
|Hambridge Center for Arts & Sciences||Rabun Gap, Georgia, USA|
|I-Park Environmental Art Program||East Haddam, Connecticut, USA|
|Joseph A. Fiorer Art Center||Jefferson, Maine, USA|
|Marble House Project||Dorset, Vermont, USA|
|McColl Center for Art & Innovation||Charlotte, North Carolina, USA|
|The Mesa Refuge||Point Reyes Station, California, USA|
|National Park System AIRs||Various, USA|
|PLAYA||Summer Lake, Oregon, USA|
|Trans Artists||Herengracht, Amsterdam|
|The Rensing Center||Pickens, South Carolina, USA|
|Santa Fe Art Institute||Santa Fe, New Mexico|
|Sitka Center for Art & Ecology||Otis, Oregon, USA|
|A Studio in the Woods||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Tortuga Escondida||Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico|
|Ucross Foundation||Ucross, Wyoming, USA|
|Willowtail Springs||Mancos, Colorado, USA|
|Wormfarm Institute||Reedsburg. Wisconsin, USA|