2D Visual Arts
Favianna Rodriguez, End Fossil Fuels (on left) and LMNOPI, When the Water Gets High...When the Floods Roll in...When the People Rise...and You Hear Us Sing...(on right), posters from the Art to End Fossil Fuels Project. These are two of the five designs. 10,000 poster kits were given away globally in support of public demonstrations including the March to End Fossil Fuels at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, New York City, September 20, 2023. A statement from Rodriguez: “The power of art is that it can help us heal our relationship to nature and help us as human beings understand that we can move away from an extractive relationship toward a regenerative one." LMNOPI is from Vermont, and created her design while clearing the July Vermont flash-flooding from her basement!
Beehive Design Collective graphic artists, The True Cost of Coal, large format (60" X 30") foldout poster, 2010. "Beehive allied with Appalachian grassroots organizers fighting mountaintop removal coal mining, a highly destructive practice that blasts ancient mountains to fuel the ever-growing global demand for electricity, wreaking havoc on coalfield communities, folks downwind and downstream of coal-burning power plants, and all of us faced with catastrophic climate change." The closed poster "depicts an intact mountain landscape, bursting with biodiversity, clean water, and interconnectedness. When the poster is pulled apart, a very different landscape is revealed – one of exploitation and extraction, of toxic contamination and privatization of resources." (See details here: on left, pre-coal, on the right, post-coal). Note the "bio-regionally accurate plant and animal species of both ecological and cultural significance to Appalachia, where the most biodiverse temperate forests in the world are found."
James Whitlow Delano, "Sinking Land and Rising Seas Threaten Manila Bay's Coastal Communities," documentary article and photographs, Inside Climate News, Nov.18,2022. "Sprawling mangrove forests once held vulnerable coastal soils in place, broke waves and buffered the shore from storms and provided habitats for thousands of species. But today, fewer than 1,236 acres of mangrove forests remain, leaving this low-lying coastline of Manila Bay one of the most vulnerable to typhoon storm surges and tides on the planet."
In 2015, Delano founded the EverydayClimateChange (ECC) Instagram feed, "where photographers from around the world document climate change on all 7 continents. ECC documents how climate change is not happening “over there” but is happening right here and right now." Based in Tokyo, this photographer achieves devastating reportage with stunning artistry.
Linda Gass, Severely Burned: Impact of the Rim Fire on the Tuolumne River Watershed, and Detail, 2014, machine quilting and hand stitching on silk, 54" X 70". The Rim Fire, over 400 square miles, was the largest ever in the Sierras at the time. "Water quality (for the San Francisco region) will be affected by ash, fire retardant and soil erosion for years to come. Some of the severely burned areas may never recover to forests, changing the watershed forever." The blue thread represents the river and its tributaries, the ashy gray thread represents topographical lines for areas "reduced to nothing but ash." Her stated approach is "evoking the chaos of climate change through the use of comforting materials." The large scale, accurate detail, and somber color palette denote its seriousness.
Beth Ames Swartz, Broken World, "The Wind Scatters Tears Upon Dust" (Hart Crane), 2022, layers of poured acrylic on canvas. Part of an exhibit of artistic responses to the California wildfires. This 87-year old artist has enjoyed a long career painting primarily abstract works with occasional symbols from various spiritual traditions. With its fiery colors, a black sun/planet, smokey wisps, and background evoking embers/tree bark and texture, this seems to me to be a powerful and true impression of these powerful and disastrous events.
Fabrice Monteiro, The Prophecy, 2014, photography project in collaboration with costume designer Doulcy, uses storytelling, fashion photography, and photojournalism to raise awareness about environmental devastation. "I wanted to create a tale that would combine animism and ecology to better speak to hearts. The Prophecy is a tale of hope and empowerment. Earth has sent her spirits to tell humans that they have the power to reverse what they have done to the planet.”
Hurt, exhausted and startled by the attitude of the humans and their lack of respect for the earth, Gaïa summoned the great spirits of nature, her children and allies, the Djinns:
My dear children, hear my call, the evil grows on our beloved planet earth. I built a world where life would be prosperous, where each would be free to breathe, to eat and admire what nature has to offer. Nevertheless, I am dying. Every day more numerous and more insatiable, the humans make excessive use of my wealth without thinking of the consequences. It has been many years since they remain deaf to my calls but you, my faithful Djinns, can reach them. Leave, reveal your existence to the humans and alert them of the danger that they incur...
Nine beautiful and terrifying composite figures, inspired by West African masqueraders, emerge out of oil slicks, garbage dumps and desiccated landscapes in Senegal, with costumes created out of found objects from each of the locations.
Rebecca Lee Kunz, Story Paintings: A Mythological Narrative Told by the Creatures of the Anthropocene, 2022, monoprints overlaid with watercolor and graphite drawing on paper. The series "draws inspiration from the Cherokee creation myth and seeks lessons about survival and the future. If we can just remember to go to that creative place, we can come up with brilliant and innovative solutions to problems such as climate change.” Coyote Skin::Dusty Paws recalls hearing coyotes in the distance while on an evening run, like "messages that sounded like ancient code being spoken in Coyote. Messages about how to move forward in balance, how to guide my children through this strange time, and how to simply survive. I was reminded that we have been through this before, but that we must listen and learn from our past. Not only did our human survival depend on it, but the Earth did as well.”
From Cinders includes ascending ravens, the Cherokee symbol for "good luck after disaster."
Terry Evans, The South Pasture February to May 2022, and Burr Oak with Roots 2020, composite photo images. The elegant beauty of her works, their subtle colors and crisp interwoven textures, comes from deep knowledge of beloved prairie sites gained through loving observation over decades. The artist comments: "Of the entire biomass of the prairie, only 15 percent is visible above ground; the other 85 percent lies below the surface. I was awed by this fact as I observed the tremendous diversity and complexity of grasses and forbs visible at my feet...Earlier on the prairie, the plains Indians had respectfully learned as much as possible about a plant in order to deserve to call it by name and to use it for food, medicinal, or ritualistic purposes... Prairie expressed metaphors for human community about living with diversity and deep roots and a sense of place."
Dan Piraro, editorial cartoonist (Bizarro), author, performer, and vegan activist. Look at the insight and courage of these messages as far back as 2003 (weatherman) and 2007 (evolution)! Well ahead of his time, and a great example of the effectiveness of combating climate change through humor.
Scott Laserow, "Help Reverse Climate Change Before It's Too Late," 2010, and "Plastic Fish," 2011, posters.
Most of Laserow's award-winning work, combining masterful design with a powerful message, has been pro-bono in support of humanitarian causes worldwide. A human silhouette, made up (and here in the process of being unmade) of wildlife, reveals our existential connection with other species. Of Plastic Fish, an exhibition judge writes, "my appreciation of beauty was smacked in the face with a realization of horror. It is exquisite in all senses of the word--visually, of course, and strategically." The caption states "2/3 of the world's fish suffer from plastic ingestion."
Madjeen Isaac, In the Palm of Our Hands, 2020. Oil on canvas. Isaac's lively magical realist works blend Haitian and Brooklyn flavors, with concerns for environmental justice and community activism. "Immigrants are no longer as connected to the Earth as they once were,” she said. “In thinking about environmental justice, I like to think about what are ways in which we can lean into our ancestral practices of agriculture over here. What if we had more autonomy with the spaces that we occupy? And how can we transform these lawns and our rooftops and grow our own foods to live off of?”
Lib Ferreira, Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan NSW, photograph, 2020. "Bushfires were ravaging the South Coast of NSW. Canberra and Queanbeyan remained a safe distance away, however, we were blanketed with smoke. These images were taken at the Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery. The kangaroos crowded around the graves, as it was the only place you could still find green grass during the drought." (Such a surreal sight, comical at first until the circumstances are known.) Ferreira is a participant in Women Photographers Australia, which "aims to combine activism and photography by utilising a growing network of female and non-binary photographers to advocate with their photography."
"My interest in ecology and the environment began in earnest in the early 1990s after pivotal trips to the temperate rainforests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Flying over Oregon on the approach to Seattle, and then driving from there to the rainforests revealed how utterly rapaciously we are destroying our forests. I was struck by the geometric patterns of logging – huge rectangles of forest had been cut out of still intact forest growing on steep hillsides. Shado-nine forest closely mirrored the actual landscape of forests that were deracinated, literally cut off from their roots, floating in a human-induced wasteland. Green Stream came directly from a visit to the Hoh National Forest. A beautiful, complex stream meandered through old growth forest, the entire scene a beautiful green, the air clean and enlivening. This painting was a straightforward celebration of a specific place."
Edward Burkynsky, Oil Bunkering no. 2, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016. Award-winning Canadian photographer. "This aerial image shows the results of a process known as "bunkering", where poor communities siphon off oil from the pipelines of multinational corporations extracting their country's national resources. The regular spillages of crude oil and toxic by-products from their jerry-rigged micro-refineries pollute the delta waters and surrounding land, which is also logged and burned. It is a powerful image of ecological devastation that uses the seductive lushness of digital color photography to show the possibly irreversible damage that man has done to the environment." In 2018, with filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal, he released the documentary ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch.
Barbara Bogacka, Blue Dragon Cave, photograph, 2020. Melting Icelandic glacial caves. "I want to show what is so fragile, unique, and valuable, and what we must try to save. The flickering light and the structure and color of ice make the caves alive and mysterious. The caves I visited in 2018 and in 2019 on the edges of Breiðamerkurjökull do not exist anymore. They disappeared together with the retreating glacier. The creation of caves and under-glacial tunnels is a dynamic process and new ones form while the old ones change or disappear. Blue Dragon Cave and Sapphire Cave have rather small chances of surviving the summer in their current forms. I could see the meltdown occurring rapidly over my three annual visits to the same area."
Aida Muluneh, Knowing the Way to Tomorrow and Star Shine, Moon Glow, 2018. Staged photographs commissioned by Water Aid. In these extremely striking images set in the desert of Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia, Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh highlights the issue of water shortage and lack of access to clean water for millions of people around the world, with a particularly devastating impact on rural women and girls. Muluneh incorporates traditional elements from her culture like clothing and body paint "to raise awareness and advocate for changes in regions with water scarcity." The vivid reds, blues, and yellows reference Ethiopian church wall paintings.
Anonymous (?) Our Planet Has Two Lungs One is Green the Other is Blue, digital image, 2021? I've seen this a lot on Twitter, etc., but cannot find out who the artist is. Help, anyone? In any case, I find it to be extremely effective in conveying its message--that healthy oceans and green spaces are as essential to us as our own vital organs .
Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, In the Hell of Copper, 2011, photograph.
An African documentary photographer from Burkina Faso, he produces gripping photographs of the "suffering endured by people faced with the social and environmental consequences of our consumerist way of life." "Taken in Ghana, one of the main dumping grounds for e-waste from Europe and the United States, where young Ghaneans poison themselves as they search for precious metals from amongst the thousands of computers piled up in rubbish dumps."
Kristi McCluer, Beacon Rock Golf Course with Eagle Creek Wildfire, 2017, photograph.
This dramatic image went viral after the amateur photographer posted it. While skydiving, she saw the Oregon wildfire and its proximity (a mile across the Columbia River) to a golf course in North Bonneville WA. Sept. 4 she took this picture of golfers carrying on calmly with a raging inferno right behind them. "In the pantheon of visual metaphors for America today, tweeted writer and producer David Simon, (The Wire), this is the money shot."
John Gerrard, Flare (Oceania), 2021. A simulation created for COP26, shown as a large-scale LED wall. "The work responds to a statement from Tongan artist + activist Uili Lousi, whose ancestral ocean is heating due to climate change." Irish new media artist Gerrard is known for Western Flag, a video work made in 2017, in which the site of the world’s first major oil find in Texas is marked by a "banner of constantly billowing black smoke." Here he was inspired to create a "flag from flames, set against a real-time seascape based on photographs taken by Lousi."
Forest, 2019-20, multimedia, with drawings by Katie Holten and poem by Forrest Gander was published in Emergence Magazine. Her delightful and delicate "tree alphabets" and graphic black and white palette bridge the gap between nature and culture in a whimsical way. Click the image and watch the forest grow!