Murals and Installations
Bahia Shehab, Heaven and Hell in the Anthropocene, 2022, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Playful immersive installation in the Green Zone of COP27. Visitors take a sustainability quiz and are led to one of two rooms based on their answers. The "hell" room is very cramped, hot, noisy, smelly, with broken mirror pieces, while the open domed "heaven" room has fresh cool breezes, gentle nature sounds, and fragrant living plants. Watch on YouTube
Vincent J.F. Huang, Polar Bear Hamburger, 2014. Taiwanese eco artist notable for his collaboration with the country of Tuvalu, (forecast to be the first nation to disappear due to sea level rise), and his selection as their official delegate at COP18. He caught media attention earlier due to his guerrilla-style artworks and urban installations around the world. Huang uses black humor to contemplate the consequences of human consumption and the dangers of climate change. A student's reflections:
"Human society is killing NATURE. The burger represents us as humans industrializing the world and using up our NATURAL resources and the polar bear represents the wildlife of the Earth. The bear has no choice and is sandwiched by our need to industrialize and globalize. He is being weighed down by our poor choices."
Benjamin Von Wong, The Giant Plastic Tap 2022. "Turn off the Giant Plastic Tap" is a global movement by this Canadian artist & activist to reduce the production of single-use plastics. "Single-use plastic consumption has gone up by 250-300% during the pandemic. We're incapable of processing all the plastic that we produce so we need to go back to the source and stop producing so much in the first place." Three stories tall, the work depicts a faucet pouring a river of plastic trash (gathered from the slums of Kibera in Nairobi) to the ground. The installation was constructed in Nairobi at the time of the UN gathering there to sign a global plastics resolution, but has been photographed on multiple other sites.
Jason DeCaires Taylor, The Rising Tide, 2015 Thames River, London. Loosely based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, shire horses whose heads have been replaced with oil well pumps bear two young riders evoking "hope for future change," and two older riders in suits showing attitudes of "denial or ambivalence." (The work is visible from the Houses of Parliament--"I think we really need to start holding people accountable for what they are doing"). The ensemble appears and disappears with the river's tides. Taylor's many underwater museums and sculpture parks around the globe get over half a million visitors per year. (See Crossing the Rubicon from Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote, Spain below) Using low carbon, PH neutral materials designed to be naturally colonized, they create a habitat for marine life and help keep divers away from fragile reef areas, while exploring themes of the climate emergency and the regenerative powers of nature.
Pejac, (Spanish street artist Silvestre Santiago), Fossil, 2018. An "artistic intervention" in a hip Brooklyn neighborhood undergoing intense gentrification. Known for his striking silhouettes such as the great Human Nature of 2013 in Salamanca (seen below), here Pejac uses a stencil to spray paint carefully placed shadows on a brick wall, creating a 3d illusion of a pixelated tree. "Fossil is proposing a hypothetical fatal future in which the only memory of nature is the fossilized appearance of a tree on a brick wall."
Agnes Denes, Wheatfield: a Confrontation, Battery Park Landfill,Downtown Manhattan,1982. Considered "one of the most significant public artworks in New York history," this 2-acre field of wheat was planted and harvested in the landfill from the construction of the World Trade Towers--an "experiment in urban farming that was a solid 30 years ahead of its time." She said the location was a "meaningful attack” on the divide between rich and poor, between the pastoral and the technocratic, and how people embrace progress. Lately, in A Forest for New York, Denes is planting more than 100K trees atop a landfill in Queens.
Sean Yoro, aka HULA, A’o’ Ana or The Warning, 2015. HULA is known for his ephemeral murals in or near bodies of water. The Warning group of works (on the left) were painted directly onto melting icebergs in the Arctic and Iceland (with his own eco-friendly pigments) to raise awareness about climate issues. "Within a few weeks these murals will be forever gone, but for those who find them, I hope they ignite a sense of urgency, as they represent the millions of people in need of our help who are already being affected from the rising sea levels of climate change.”
On the right: This Hawaiian artist was featured at the 2022 Tacoma Oceanfest. He is seen here painting a frequent motif, an indigenous woman's profile, from his "paddle board studio."
Wangechi Mutu, In Two Canoe, 2022. 15-ft. green patinated bronze sculpture at Storm King Sculpture Park, NY. The huge fantastical tree-women posed both in and out of the boat blend mangrove and human, land and water. This Kenyan artist's work explores the natural world and "a future where humans have reconnected with the environment, where human and non-human elements merge and create a greater force..." Mangrove trees can be seen as symbols of flexibility and resilience, migration and connection.
Olga Ziemska, Listen, 2003. Outdoor installation, locally reclaimed birch and plaster cast hands, at the Center of Polish Sculpture, Oronsko. “Nature is defined as anything that’s in our surrounding environment including rocks, trees, plants, and animals, but excluding humans and human creation. This definition is teaching the next generation something that is actually about a massive separation and fragmentation. I think that needs to be relooked at, redefined and corrected.”
Carrie Ziegler, Plastic Whale, 2012. Collaborative sculpture made of plastic trash, commissioned by Thurston County Public Works. Ziegler created this project when the plastic bag ban was being debated. Gathering materials (including over 10K plastic bags) with the efforts of over 900 school kids and various community groups, she formed this life-size structure which was then part of the Procession of the Species Parade in Olympia. Ziegler is currently very active with the Thurston Climate Action Team as an artist and community engagement leader.
Iena Cruz, (Federico Massa from Milan), Hunting Pollution, 2018, mural. Regenerative street art funded by Yoururban2030, and painted with AIRLITE, a paint which reduces heat and "eats smog" at this very busy intersection, Via del Porto Fluviale, Rome.The tricolored heron, an endangered species, is hunting in a polluted pool of water, fighting for survival.
Alejandro Durán, "Washed Up" Project, 2010-, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Despite being a protected area, global plastic trash washes up on Sian Ka'an's shores like everywhere else. Duran began to collect and color-sort the plastic, then use it create evocative temporary arrangements within the natural setting . After disassembly, the items are reused for environmental art workshops. Left: Algas (Algae), 2013. Right: Brotes (Shoots), 2014.
Britt Freda, Vashon Audubon Bird Mural, 2020, Vashon Island, retaining wall outside the Vashon Center for the Arts. Colorful and imaginative (is that Klimt style?) renderings of local birds endangered by climate change were painted on this 10ft wall. Just beyond it is a restored meadow and wetland with aspen groves.
Seen as a circle of witnesses to environmental destruction, 23 pronghorn antelope skulls stand in a circle (for the 23 counties of WY), on weathered ranch fenceposts, secured to iron bases repurposed from the gas fields. "The fate of the pronghorn is our own, holding us accountable for what has been taken and for the beauty that remains. They tell the story of fracking in the American West, of a boom-and-bust economy and contaminated water…the costs of a fossil fuel economy.” (Williams) The sight of many pronghorn trapped and dying in the oil reservations of WY condemned human greed and cruelty. The installation was first set up in Jackson Hole as a “disturbance,” then was invited to St. John the Divine where "its dignity and stark beauty still haunts and inspires."
Olafur Eliasson and Robert Montgomery, Grace of the Sun, 2021, is a “light poem” powered by 1,000 Little Sun lamps, which were disassembled and reused after COP26. "Calling for a massive turn toward solar power, the installation is an extension of Eliasson’s Little Sun project" which he began in 2012 and which has provided solar power and light to over 3 million people in Africa.
Global Warming Hourglass, BLU, street art, Berlin, 2012. (Painted over and replaced by an advertisement in 2014) Arresting image of an hourglass with a melting iceberg and drowning city instead of sand in a "particularly potent metaphor for global warming."
Putting Green, Brooklyn NY, 2021. The 18 holes were designed by various community groups atop a former industrial site on the waterfront, using sustainable materials and methods. They provide both entertainment and education through messaging about climate change. Proceeds go to NY nonprofit climate change organizations.
Jenny Holzer, Hurt Earth , 2021. This work launched at Tate Modern in London, then was shown at various locations in Glasgow during COP26. Light projections of texts by over 40 activists draw attention to the climate crisis. She is known for work that uses text to "invite public debate and highlight issues."
Moths to a Flame, Plymouth (UK) Art and Energy Collective, 2021. “As butterfly doth thrum the storm, might the moth then summon dawn.” A mass-participation installation of 20,000 moths made of milk bottles, plus recorded audio messages sent from all over the world, created a beautiful display of hope and community at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens during COP26.
Joseph Rossano, Salmon School, 2018-21. Installation in the delegates'dining room at COP26 consists of a school of "mirrored salmon-like forms, hand-blown from molten glass by artists and makers from around the world, all of whom are concerned by the plight of wild salmon." Working with the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, the initial forms were created and a method was developed to "easily replicate versions of a salmon-like shape using blown glass." First-hand video accounts from renowned scientists, artists, and indigenous people accompany the glass display.
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.
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.
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.
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."