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Grower, 2004 by Sabrina Raaf (image via loop.ph)

As we are in the midst of the open call to artists for the 2012 LAGI design competition for Freshkills Park, NYC, we thought that it would be a great time to write a small post here about the broader environmental art movement. Eco-art has a long and beautiful history, and we hope that those who are participating in the LAGI competition will appreciate the profound impact that has been made by its pioneering practitioners over the past decades. Eco-art continues to educate and inform by making people think about environmental issues in interesting and conceptual ways, and thereby arousing the slumbering environmental activist within us all.

ECO-ART is a contemporary art movement that addresses local and global environmental issues. In their work, eco-artists explore a variety of ideas and intentions, which may include environmental ethics, information about ecological systems and the use of natural forms and materials in art. Some eco-art is functional, striving to reclaim, restore or remediate damaged environments. Eco-art can re-envision ecological relationships and even propose new models for sustainability.

Below are just four (out of a long list) of our favorite eco-artists. We hope that you’ll be interested to take a look at the reference links at the end of this post to find your way to hundreds of other amazing environmental artists.


Ann Rosenthal, Steffi Domike, and Suzy Meyer – Carbon Cafe 2009
(image via Kunsthaus Kaufbeuren)

Ann T. Rosenthal While some artists focus on digging holes and hands-on reclamation, Ann T. Rosenthal is a passionate advocate for an “interprative” approach to environmental art which combines thorough research, documentation and electronic media installations. Her work is often collaborative as in her Infinity City project with artist Stephen Moore which explores nuclear waste and the environmental devastation caused by the atomic bomb. (text via greenmuseum.org)


Betsy Damon and Margie Ruddick – Living Water Garden in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China (image via threatenedwaters.com)

Betsy Damon Environmental art pioneer, Betsy Damon, creates large-scale art parks featuring sculptural flow forms and public art events to help clean urban waterways and raise water awareness around the globe. Her nonprofit organization, Keepers of the Waters, provides information and technical support for others working with similar design principles and processes. (text via greenmuseum.org)


Eve Mosher – Seeding the City (image via 2modern and courtesy of Eve Mosher)

Eve Mosher is a contemporary American artist who creates large-scale projects that directly engage the audience regarding ecological issues, such as in her highly-acclaimed HighWaterLine project. In her project Seeding the City, Mosher used social networking and community-based workshops to encourage New York City residents to start small green roofs. By installing green roof modules and displaying green flags, participants demonstrated the potential for community action and green space. In another recent project Paths of Desire, Mosher encouraged New Yorkers to connect with historic waterways and consider their relationship to the water surrounding Manhattan.


Andrea Polli and Chuck Varga – Particle Falls 2011 (Image courtesy Everett Taasevigen)

Andrea Polli works at the intersection of art, science, and technology. Her artworks aim to make visible environmental issues and hazards that often go unnoticed in everyday life. She often works in collaboration with atmospheric scientists to develop systems for understanding storm and climate systems through video footage and sound. In Particle Falls, Polli and collaborator Chuck Varga use sound and video to create realtime visualization of particle pollution in Santa Clara, California. In another recent work Heart and Heartbeat in the City, Polli developed a series of sonifications in which the audience experiences oncoming climate change through sound.

More References!

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click on the image above to explore make sure you zoom in deep to see the detail

The piece is meant to provide a context for the age of fossil fuels and question our ability to adapt to a post-fossil fuel age that is rapidly approaching. It’s the second in a deep zoom series exploring the time context of our access to carbon energy. The previous version is a longer view and can be seen here.

A similar PDF version is available as a PDF download in the sidebar of this blog.

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The idea of an earthly Eden is one that is as old as recorded history. Privileged individuals over the past 100 years have lived lives that have had an Edenic air about them insomuch as they had want of nothing and were able to surround themselves with beauty and comfort. This simulacrum of Utopia that continues to expand its reach today among the privileged is built upon the foundation of the fossil fuel economy. We decided to bite into the “forbidden fruit” of seemingly inexpensive energy so that ten or twelve generations very lucky people could find some semblance of easy living.

Seemingly inexpensive. But how is it possible for human civilization to place a value on a material good that exists only once, the only use of which is to be combusted, and then is gone forever (leaving behind only a wake of environmental destruction)? If we keep our current pace of consumption, it will be gone forever by the end of the century in which we now live. That a barrel of a substance that will no longer exist 75 years from now can be purchased for the equivalent of a dinner out for two is a testament to the short-sighted nature of human behavior.

Another testament to the short-sighted nature of human behavior is that we have collectively decided to pay a monetary price (for the incessant consumption of this invaluable good) to those who extract it from the earth. In a sense, we are paying certain people large sums of money to act irresponsibly on our behalf with a shared finite resource that should rightfully belong to all people. No human hand went into its production, only into its extraction. So we pay the price to some humans for the extraction and we neglect the inherent value of its production (its real value) which should in any other economic system be the first cost paid by the one who would then sell it on again. The oil companies are in effect middle men dealing in hot goods for which they paid nothing. Royalties for the use of public lands amount to a trifling nod to this imbalance.

When all the reserves have been tapped out in 75 or 100 years will we be remembered as thieves by those who will tell spiteful stories of this false Eden? Or will we set the stage now for a new and permanent Eden that is rebuilt on new foundations of sustainable and clean renewable energy?

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