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Discover new artists making work around environmental issues. Use the library below to inspire students and build curriculum.
Maya Lin is known for her large-scale environmental artworks, her architectural works and her memorial designs. Her unique multi-disciplinary career has “resisted categories, boundaries and borders” (Michael Brenson). In her book Boundaries, she writes I see myself existing between boundaries, a place where opposites meet; science and art, art and architecture, East and West. My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings.”
Specializing in multi-species entanglements under climate change, Dr. Juniper Harrower works at the intersection of ecology, art, activism and policy. She uses rigorous science methods and a multimedia art practice to investigate human influence on ecological systems while seeking solutions that protect at-risk species and promote environmental justice.
Israeli-born artist Hagit Cohen is interested in creating immersion environments that promote an awareness of the dichotomy between the fragility and strength of nature. By focusing on close investigation of natural elements, she brings the viewer closer to the understanding that we are a part of nature and that we need to care for it as we care for ourselves. Hagit works primarily with digital images, constructing visual scenes with photographic images and objects of ritual. She lives and works in Berkeley, CA, where she hikes the hills often.
The late Belgian artist Naziha Mestaoui used technology to make us aware of the interconnectedness of all things in nature and how every action and decision we make impacts the world at large. Preoccupied with the climate crisis and the plight of Indigenous communities – who, in many cases, bear the brunt of climate change – Mestaoui devised projects where art not only serves as a tool to raise awareness but also has a tangible impact on the real world.
Nancy Holt was an American artist most known for her public sculpture, installation art, concrete poetry, and land art. Throughout her career, Holt also produced works in other media, including film and photography, and wrote books and articles about art. With her novel use of cylindrical forms, light, and techniques of reflection, Holt developed a unique aesthetic of perception, which enabled visitors to her sites to engage with the landscape in new and challenging ways.
Allison Janae Hamilton (b.1984) is a visual artist working in sculpture, installation, photography, and video. She was born in Kentucky, raised in Florida, and her maternal family’s farm and homestead lies in the rural flatlands of western Tennessee. Hamilton’s relationship with these locations forms the cornerstone of her artwork, particularly her interest in landscape. Using plant matter, layered imagery, complex sounds, and animal remains, Hamilton creates immersive spaces that consider the ways that the American landscape contributes to our ideas of “Americana” and social relationships to space in the face of a changing climate, particularly within the rural American south.
A primary figure among the concept-based artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, Agnes Denes is internationally known for works created in a wide range of mediums. A pioneer of several art movements, she is difficult to categorize. Investigating science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, poetry, history, and music, Denes’s artistic practice is distinctive in terms of its aesthetics and engagement with socio-political ideas. As a pioneer of environmental art, she created Rice/Tree/Burial in 1968 in Sullivan County, New York which, according to the renowned art historian and curator Peter Selz, was “probably the first large scale site-specific piece anywhere with ecological concerns.
Sussman is a Guggenheim, NYFA, and MacDowell Colony Fellow, and two-time TED speaker. Her critically acclaimed, decade-long project “The Oldest Living Things in the World” combines art, science, and philosophy into a traveling exhibition and New York Times bestselling book. In 2014 she began developing new installation work deepening her explorations of personal and cosmic time, the universe, nature, philosophy, and beauty.
John Akomfrah was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1957. A pioneering filmmaker, Akomfrah creates multichannel video installations that critically examine the legacy of colonialism, the Black diaspora, and environmental degradation. Akomfrah weaves together original footage with archival material to create stirring, layered narratives that juxtapose personal and historical memory, past and present, and environmental and human crises. -Art21.org
Jason deCaires Taylor creates dynamic sculptural installations on the ocean floor to promote ocean conservation and address the perils of climate change. Working in marine concrete, he combines the traditions of Land Art with the sensibility of street art, producing ever-changing works full of surprise, compassion, and wit. In installations such as “Silent Evolution,” deCaires Taylor transforms statuesque portraits of local communities into artificial reefs that directly support the ocean life upon which those communities depend.
Buckland created and now directs the international Cape Farewell project – www.capefarewell.com. Bringing artists, visionaries, scientists and educators together, Cape Farewell continues to build an international collective awareness and the cultural response to climate disruption. Over 140 artists have created operas, films, artworks, pop music and novels which address the climate challenge and through the process of making art, vision a sustainable and exciting cultural future.
Rain Room can be seen as an amplified representation of our environment. Upon entering the installation, visitors are simultaneously exposed to and protected from the water falling all around. Although the sound and smell of the rain are intense, its touch remains absent leaving visitors dry within a continual downpour as they navigate the space. Human presence prevents the rain from falling, creating a unique atmosphere and exploring how human relationships to each other and to nature are increasingly mediated through technology. In Rain Room a seemingly intuitive relationship develops between visitor and artwork, man and machine.
Favianna Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and social justice activist based in Oakland, California. Her art and praxis address migration, gender justice, climate change, racial equity, and sexual freedom. Favianna leads art interventions around the United States at the intersection of art, justice and cultural equity.
Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, are artists noted for their large-scale, site-specific environmental installations, often large landmarks and landscape elements wrapped in fabric, including the Wrapped Reichstag, The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Running Fence in California, and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park.
Jaakko Pernu is a Finnish sculptor and environmental artist living in the city of Oulu. He has been working with natural materials since 1988 creating large scale installations from tree branches and tree trunks found on site, expertly woven together, responding to the landscape. Many of Pernu’s works derive their inspiration from his early life, growing up in rural Eastern Finland. As a child, Pernu helped his father construct wooden boats. He observed his father’s technique of manipulating wood to create sweeping, elegant shapes, and this is evident in his distinct environmental sculptures.
Edward Burtynsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary photographers. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes represent over 40 years of his dedication to bearing witness to the impact of human industry on the planet. Burtynsky’s photographs are included in the collections of over 80 major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid; the Tate Modern in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.
Born in Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Taloi Havini currently lives and works in Brisbane Australia. As both an artist and curator, Havini’s work is often a personal response to the politics of location exploring contested sites and histories connected within Oceania; employing photography, sculpture, immersive video and mixed-media installations.
Benjamin Von Wong’s work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines everyday objects with shocking statistics. It has attracted the attention of corporations, like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste, and fashion pollution. Most recently, he was named one of Adweek’s 11 content branded masterminds. He is also the host of the Impact Everywhere Podcast and a creative advisor for the Ocean Plastic Leadership Network and the Sustainable Ocean Alliance.
Marilyn’s current work, Notes from the Sea, reflects the clash/coexistence between the industrial and the natural worlds. Industrial debris, machine parts, and marine life are entangled or morph into one another; a vision of the future where accommodation is the result. Handmade paper and relief prints are her primary media.
Katherine Wolkoff’s exhibition, “Taken from a Cat,” calls attention to dwindling North American bird populations due to climage change. The exhibition features photographs of Elizabeth Dicken’s handwritten bird tags that describe how the birds died. Wolkoff says that the tag with the absence of the bird calls attention to the crisis of dwindling bird populations. Some of her other work, such as photography of deer beds, also calls attention to animals through absence.
Barry’s work illuminates environments that hold rich ecological and cultural histories and are sites of destructive human behavior. By building and photographing sculptures of light, Underwood elucidates the ways humans intervene in the natural environment while highlighting how society normalizes these exploitations. His work makes visible the cultural constructs of wilderness and, by extension, the environmental issues related to human use and abuse of natural resources.
Tarisse has her Aboriginal inheritance from her father, who was from the Gurindji clan in the Northern Territory. The Gurindji people were drawn into the public gaze during the 1960s and 1970s when the Wave Hill strike by Aboriginal workers on the cattle station, led a landmark case and the first successful land rights claim in Australia. While the features of the extreme climate are represented in her artwork, Tarisse King’s paintings mostly reflect the road trips she made between Darwin, Katherine and Adelaide, where her father lived. This journey of 3,027 km through the heart lands of Australia, revealed the expanses of changing landscape and gave Tarisse King the isolation and time to develop a unique perception of the land.
Nature artist Andy Goldsworthy, who followed in the footsteps of the Land Art movement, produces sculptures that are specific to their location in both natural and urban settings. His artworks ultimately question the fragility of the earth, as he uses nature as his canvas to create artworks of unparalleled beauty. Goldsworthy’s approach to art is that his creations need to exist in conjunction with nature, with this peaceful and organic approach evident in his work.
Nathalie Miebach explores the intersection of art and science by translating scientific data related to meteorology, ecology and oceanography into woven sculptures and musical scores/ performances. Her main method of data translation is that of basket weaving, which functions as a simple, tactile grid through which to interpret data into 3D space. Central to this work is her desire to explore the role visual and musical aesthetics play in the translation and understanding of complex scientific systems, like weather.
Kate MacDowell creates porcelain sculptures that “highlight both the impermanence and fragility of natural forms in a dying ecosystem, while paradoxically, being a material that can last for thousands of years and is historically associated with high status and value. I see each piece as a captured and preserved specimen, a painstaking record of endangered natural forms and a commentary on our own culpability.”
Leah Wilson is a visual artist and writer who lives and works in Eugene, Oregon. A 2012 artist residency at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades introduced Leah Wilson to ecologists working on long-term studies and field research. Attracted by the enduring focus of inquiry, she is now an episodic lifetime artist in residence at the Andrews Forest. The place and the scientists continue to shape and influence her artwork. Wilson’s interaction with the forest and its community led her to realize that science in general, and ecology in particular, seek to identify patterns (and changes in patterns) over time.
Born in Passaic in New Jersey, Robert Smithson (January 2, 1938—July 20, 1973) is an artist who expanded what art could be and where it could be found. For over fifty years his work, writings, and ideas have influenced artists and thinkers, building the ground from which contemporary art has grown. An autodidact, Smithson’s interests in travel, cartography, geology, architectural ruins, prehistory, philosophy, science fiction, popular culture, and language spiral through his work. His best known Earthworks piece titled, “Spiral Jetty” (1970), is pictured here.
Ethan Estess’s work tells stories about environmental science topics, from marine plastic pollution to tuna conservation. He focuses on appealing to the basic emotions of the viewer so they can understand the scientific concepts at play and internalize the gravity of humanity’s impact on the global ecosystem. He’s inspired by the biodiversity of life on Earth, found objects, motion, and the interactions between the “human” and “natural” worlds.
Fabrice Monteiro is a photographer and visual artist who lives and works in Dakar Senegal. In 2013, he began a project in Senegal called The Prophecy to raise awareness in the local population of the serious environmental scourges that the country suffers as well as the consequences of excessive consumption. Monteiro creates characters that emerge from oil slicks, garbage dumps and dry landscapes, and then photographs them to deliver a warning and empowerment message to humanity. The colorful series unquestionably awakens the collective consciousness. Monteiro’s goal is to continue his project around the world and thus involve all cultures and continents in a dialogue on a global scale. – Chazen Museum of Art
Jess Benjamin’s artwork focuses on water usage in the Great Plains area: a regional concern that is related to the phenomenon of global drought and overconsumption of natural resources. As the daughter of a Nebraska farmer and rancher, Benjamin has witnessed the drought-like conditions in the Midwest throughout her life. Below the Midwest lies the greatest underground water reserve in the world, the Ogallala Aquifer.
UK-based illustrator Jo Brown documents the discoveries she makes during outdoor excursions in her colorful Nature Journals. Featured in her portfolio are careful renderings of carnivorous plants, tiny insects, and indigenous birds. Brown uses a combination of fine-nib pens and colored pencils to capture her subjects in splendid detail. Much like scientific illustrations, she often includes close-up shots of specific components, such as minute insect eggs. Along the edge of the drawings, Brown adds educational jottings of the flora and fauna, including the Latin name of each species.
Hannah Demma is an avid outdoorswoman, outdoor educator, and lifelong Nebraskan. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2017, with an emphasis on printmaking and her Masters in Fine Art at her alma mater in 2022. Her mixed-media approach to art speaks to aspects of science and nature both familiar and strange, and mines the environment for inspiration, examining the intersection of the imaginative and the biological, of the creative and the empirical. Her process stirs the imagination and sparks excitement for exploration and adventure.
“Mayet’s practice revolves around small-scale sculptural installation, and miniaturised replicas of imaginary trees, plants and other natural objects. The artist’s vision of the trees is such that their roots remain intact (De Mis Vivos Y Mis, 2008), as is the residual clump of earth into which they are planted (Cuando Más Pienso En Ti, 2008). Made with electrical wire, paper, acrylic paint and fabric, which are combined to create realistic qualities, the objects display a three dimensional realism. While the wires and papier-mâché suggest craft culture, they are in fact rooted in the artist’s interest in ancient language of pre-Colombian history. Mayet maintains that there is life in trees which gives life to people, and the strength and symbolic resilience of the perennial plants can inform mankind’s universal worth.” – Osei Bonsu
Ann Holsberry is an artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area and Paris. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, with solo exhibitions at the Morris Graves Museum of Art (Eureka, CA) and the de Saisset Museum of Art (Santa Clara, CA), among other venues. She has held residencies at Kala Art Institute, Los Medanos College, and Le Cent Charenton and Domaine des Grands Devers (France). Her art has twice been selected for the City of Emeryville Art In Public Places Program, and is in collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the UCSF Cancer Treatment Center in San Francisco. Holsberry is a recipient of two Berkeley Civic Arts Grants: 2018-2019, and 2021-2022. Raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Holsberry received her BFA from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia, and MRP and JD degrees from Cornell University. She practiced environmental law for 13 years before focusing on art full-time. Her work can be seen at Pierogi Gallery in New York City.
Using utilitarian materials, Jordan Weber produces sculptural social objects and spaces that speak to ways in which racially oppressed peoples are restricted physically, geographically, and socially. Adapting to the architectural spaces they inhabit, his works attempt to create inclusive environments where visitors might test or practice forms of sustainable urbanism. These public works are often modified to specifically fit their environments—whether an arts center, private home, museum, or public space. “I always want to expose elements within the work that are relatable to people in my community,” says Weber. “I like to have these ‘openings’ within the work—those elements people can relate to—so they can feed into the psychology of the work.”
Luzinterruptus is an anonymous artistic group who carries out urban interventions in public spaces. They use light as a raw material and the dark as a canvas in order to shed light on environmental problems the community tries to ignore.
The paintings of Calida Rawles merge hyper-realism with poetic abstraction. Situating her subjects in dynamic spaces, her recent work employs water as a vital, organic, multifaceted material, and historically charged space. Ranging from buoyant and ebullient to submerged and mysterious, Black bodies float in exquisitely rendered submarine landscapes of bubbles, ripples, refracted light and expanses of blue. For Rawles, water signifies both physical and spiritual healing as well as historical trauma and racial exclusion.
Theo Jansen is engaged in creating new forms of life: the so called strandbeests. Skeletons made from yellow plastic tube (Dutch electricity pipe) are able to walk and get their energy from the wind. They have evolved since their inception in 1990 and have been divided into 12 periods of evolution. Their properties determine this period. You will find the most important types of strandbeests at geneology. “By developing this evolution, I hope to become wiser in the understanding of existing nature by encountering myself the problems of the real Creator.”
Mark Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational”) scientific methods and “subjective” (“irrational”) influences. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.- Art21
The Underwater HOA was a socially engaged art project created by Xavier Cortada in 2018 and is a precursor to The Underwater. Based in the Village of Pinecrest, the Underwater HOA (or Underwater Homeowners Association) utilized elevation-marked street paintings and yard signs to warn residents about their vulnerability to sea level rise and engage them in problem-solving via monthly “HOA” meetings.
Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture. Dyson’s abstract works are visual and material systems used to construct fusions of surface tension, movement, scale, real and finite space. With an emphasis on the ways black and brown bodies perceive and negotiate space as information, Dyson looks to spatial liberation strategies from historical and contemporary perspectives, seeking to uncover new understandings of the potential for more livable geographies.
Zaria Forman is an artist who spreads awareness of climate change through her pastel drawings. She travels to remote regions of the world to collect images and inspiration for her work. She has flown with NASA on several Operation IceBridge missions over Antarctica, Greenland, and Arctic Canada.
Mel Chin was born in Houston, Texas and is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that enlist science as an aesthetic component to developing complex ideas. He created and implemented Revival Field (1990), a project that was a pioneer in the field of “green remediation,” the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil.
Laurel Roth Hope lives and works in Northern California. Prior to becoming a full-time, self-taught artist she worked as a park ranger and in natural resource conservation. These professional experiences influenced her current work, which centers on the human manipulation of and intervention into the natural world and the choices we must make everyday between our individual desires and the well being of the world at large.
Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1967. Moving seamlessly from his early photographs to sculpture, immersive environments, large-scale public interventions, and architectural projects, Eliasson uses simple natural elements—light, color, water, and movement—to alter viewers’ sensory perceptions. Predicated on the idea that “art does not end where the real world begins,” Eliasson’s work lives in the active exchange between his creations and the viewers.
FollowingFollow 995 Followers Bio Inspired by 18th-century aesthetics and philosophy, Josh Keyes paints animals in a style reminiscent of anatomical diagrams. His work is characterized by an attention to detail and to physiological accuracy. Keyes, however, does not place his animal subjects in their natural settings; rather, they are often in peril, displaced from their natural ecosystems into dioramic fantastical situations. These landscapes are frequently isolated and contain an incompatible mix of the natural and manmade. Keyes acknowledges that themes of migration and displacement frequently feature into his work as a form of his preoccupation with global climate change and the human impact on nature.
Desirée Patterson is a Canadian photographic artist. Her career began during a journey throughout forty countries across four continents. As she documented her extensive travels, she repeatedly observed exhausted environments and impoverished situations. These experiences impacted Patterson deeply, they served as a catalyst inspiring the themes and direction of her art practice. Patterson’s artistic process consists of digital image capture and meticulous post manipulation of form, shape and orientation, turning disparate layers into unified compositions. Key thematics in her work include sustainability, environmental issues, social justice and humanity’s dystopic relationship with nature.