Art has a power to reach hearts and minds, get attention, and inspire action! It supports the climate movement in tandem with scientific and political activism, but in a different way. You could call it “Climate ARTivism!”
This webpage is dedicated to discovering and featuring exciting and effective examples of climate-related artwork. There’s a lot out there! Just click on the menu above, choose a category and explore! If you click on the images, you can visit the websites or watch performances. To dig deeper, please Google the artists to see more of their works and learn more about their backgrounds and goals.
Please feel free to contribute to this collection by sending an artist’s name or artwork’s title (a link or file with a brief description would also be helpful) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s keep the inspiration growing!
Want to express yourself or showcase a friend or relative? We also have a space where chapter members and friends can submit their own creations! Just submit to email@example.com.
Celeste Byers, Justice First, 2018. Some of you may have gotten one of these free posters, as I did, at the Climate Justice Festival in August. It was commissioned for the Dogwood Alliance's "Justice First Tour" in 10 Southern states in 2018. I find this image so appealing as well as very effective in communicating our aspirations for humans and the planet. Byers is known for vivid tropical murals. I hope she will turn her talents to more eco-art themes in the future. Click the image for more details, and look her up at celestebyers.com.
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!
Alexis Rockman, The Farm, 2000, The Bounty,1991, and Newtown Creek, 2014, oil on wood. He has treated environmental themes for decades and had a major retrospective at the Smithsonian in 2010. These works powerfully portray his deep concerns about fragile ecosystems and the threat of human civilization. Click on the images for more information.
The Tempestry Project, (2017-) a collaborative fiber arts project that was started in Anacortes by Emily McNeil and Marissa and Justin Connelly. "Temperature + tapestry," these knitted or crocheted strips record temperature data for every day of a year in a certain location, and cumulatively display global warming. Collaborators by the hundreds have joined worldwide. For each kit sold, donations are given to climate causes.
Alisa Singer, Transportation Biggest Emitter, part of Environmental Graphiti series (2014-) Beautiful bold colors and abstract treaments transform graphs and charts related to climate change. The data sources are posted next to the paintings for comparison. She says "Art makes the science more accessible, just as science makes the art more meaningful."
Jon Ching, Cache, 2020 oil on wood. His surreal wildlife paintings reflect his fascination with symbiosis. This eagle feathered with seaweed, holding a monarch butterfly in its beak, seems to glare and protect its piles and piles of food on a lifeless shore.To me, it evokes a theme of over-consumption. He says "my approach is to explore the beauty of nature to spark reverence and appreciation in hopes that it leads to concern and protection." He donates work to multiple nature conservation causes.
Murals and Installations
Xavier Cortada, Underwater HOA, 2018, one of his many participatory eco-art projects in the Miami area. He distributed yard signs for residents and painted intersections with students, with numbers depicting how many feet of melted glacial water would submerge those locations. The background designs on the signs are from artwork he made after a trip to the Antarctic in 2006 as a NSF fellow, the Antarctic Ice Painting series. Click on any image for more.
Bob Partington, Melting Panthers,2020. He's The History Channel's "Thingamabob" host, an award-winning inventor and artist. This wax sculpture of a Florida panther and her cub, melting rapidly in the heat and revealing the lettering "MORE HEAT LESS WILDLIFE," draws attention to how rising temperatures are affecting treasured Florida wildlife. Part of a CLEO Institute climate crisis campaign. Click on either image for more details.
Ruben Orozco, Bihar,2021. The title means "tomorrow" in Basque. Under cover of darkness, Orozco installed a hyperrealist fiberglass sculpture of a girl in the River Nervion in Bilbao, Spain. The girl's face is submerged during high tides, leading to questions about future rising water levels and sustainability.
Click on either image for a video with more details.
Maya Lin, Ghost Forest, May 10-Nov. 14, 2021, Madison Square Park, NY
49 dead Atlantic white cedar trees, 40 ft tall, have been "planted" in a forest arrangement. The trees, from Pine Barren NJ, were cleared from that fragile ecosystem after succumbing to salt water degradation. A soundscape of native species who once lived on Manhattan Island accompanies the installation. (Lin is famous for the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in DC)
Banksy, From this moment despair ends and tactics begin, Marble Arch, London, 2019. This example of Banksy's guerrilla street art appeared overnight at the end of the Extinction Rebellion protests of April 2019. (The quote is from The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem of 1967). The girl is holding the Extinction Rebellion logo. An inspiring cry for action!
Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, Ice Watch, 2014, multiple locations, this photo is Paris. Blocks of off-shore Greenland ice were transported to public spaces to communicate the urgency of climate change. Left to melt as spectators feel global warming firsthand. He said "It is so abstract, it's so far away, it's literally out of our body and it's in our brain and I wanted simply to change that narrative of the climate from our brain and emotionalize it into our bodies."
The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood, (Oryx and Crake 2003, The Year of the Flood, 2009, MaddAddam, 2013). (Being adapted into a TV series by HULU). A "bio punk" post-apocalyptic world that "shows us how a new world can come from something which seemed always destined to break." The conclusion points towards the ultimate endurance of community and love.
Overstory by Richard Powers, 2018. Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about humans and trees and their deep connections. Magnificent writing and powerful eco-advocacy.
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2020. An amazing “what-if” mapping out a possible (mostly) positive scenario for the next 50 years. Chock full of great solution ideas, could it be a blueprint for real-life world leaders today?
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, 1993. Considered one of the first climate novels, a forerunner in treating climate change and social inequality.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2019. (non-fiction) Essays intricately interweaving botany, personal experience, and indigenous wisdom. A truly outstanding book.
Matthew Olzmann, Letter to Someone Living 50 Years from Now, 2017
It begins with,
"Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction..."
Lynna Odel, November, 2020
It begins with,
"If I can't save us
then let me feel you
happy and safe
under my chin..."
Camille T Dungy, A Massive Dying Off, 2011
It begins with,
“When the fish began their dying you didn’t worry
you bought new shoes...”
Molly Fisk, Particulate Matter,2018 (about the CA wildfires)
It begins with,
“If all you counted were tires on the cars left in driveways and stranded beside the roads…”
Marvin Gaye, "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)" 1971. Remember this? "What about this overcrowded land how much more abuse from man can she stand." There are multiple videos on YouTube, find your favorite.
Donald Glover,"Feels like Summer” music video by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) “might be one of the farthest-reaching pieces of climate art ever”
Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi” 1970. One of the first, and still one of the best! Lines like these say it all:
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
KT Nelson, choreographer, Joan Jeanrenaud, composer, Dead Reckoning, 2014, performed by the ODC Dance Company in San Francisco. The title refers to navigating in poor visibility, increasing the stress and likelihood of error-- is this our situation re: the climate crisis? This KQED newsroom special is great for some background on this beautiful and expressive piece. Click on image to watch the whole performance.
Jody Sperling, Bringing the Arctic Home 2015, dancing on the ice. She accompanied a scientific mission to the Arctic as the guest of oceanographer Robert Pickart. She won a Creative Climate Award and continues to engage in climate literacy outreach.
Our Chapter Art
Joanna Lepore Dwyer, Untitled, 2000. Yes, my daughter the artist! A high school work, it hangs on my office wall as a daily reminder of what we are up against.
From Nancy Atwood, a poem by her friend Sue Liska:
What Do You See Off the Bow of Your Ship?
A vision of blue, a promise of forever
The sky a pink hue, yet I feel a slight shiver
What upsets this earth picture so vivid with beauty?
A thought so distressful, in verse I think my duty
To paint a picture of plastic everywhere raining down
Entering our ecosystem, is it possible to rebound?
It affects my thoughts….. pollution is a dirty word
Ahead in time, I see fewer animals and birds
To make things right, to educate and care
To help erase this blight over our earth once fair
Develop technology to recover, reuse, redistribute
And to humanity’s future we will be a tribute
A Few Years From Now:
Triumphant! We did it large scale, results plain to see
Our earth looks better, cleaning up was the key
On the horizon ahead, no longer to aggrieve
Healthier food and drink, and better air to breathe
This ship crosses waters near my town and yours,
And plastic recovery is a business that soars
Every piece utilized for man’s hungry desires
Captured in mobile bays, all excuses ceasefire
Zero tolerance for scrappy discards that can’t be reused
Find them, surround them, recover, recycle, stop abuse
Then the view from your ship’s bow will surely produce
A satisfaction and success for planet Gaia--no excuse