Murals and Installations
Sam Van Aken, The Open Orchard, Governor Island Park, NY, 2022. "A monumental living land artwork taking the form of a public orchard comprising 102 fruit trees, The Open Orchard will act as a living archive for antique and heirloom fruit varieties that were grown in and around New York City in the past 400 years but have mostly disappeared due to climate change and the industrialization of agriculture. Using a unique grafting process, Van Aken combines multiple fruit varieties into a single tree — so different varieties grow alongside one another and the trees blossom in a rainbow of white, pink, and crimson. Fruit trees cannot be saved in seed banks and must be grown as living trees to be preserved, so this dream orchard will preserve these fruits for future generations, providing a road map for innovative techniques to maintain vital biodiversity in the face of a changing climate. Nearly 100 additional trees will be donated and planted in community gardens throughout the five boroughs."
Dustin Yellin, 10 Parts, 2015, 20 ft glasswork installation with multimedia 3-d collages made of snippets of printed material and other found objects. The apocalptic vision "bursting with wild, enigmatic stories, echoes Hieronymus Bosch, one of Yellin's primary influences. In the final, 10th part of the work "a feverish tumble of figures and objects appear to fall over the edge of the world." In loving detail, today’s chaotic world of environmental collapse due to overexploitation is on display. Yellin's Brooklyn studio was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. "I’ve been thinking about climate change for as long as I can remember, I think the most pressing issue is our inability as a species to get along, our inability to work together."
Tacoma artists (clockwise) Kate Thun, Angela Larson, Nori Kimura, Saiyare Refaei and Gloria Joy Kazuko Muhammed, If it Hits the Ground, it Hits the Sound, murals on sidewalks near storm drain catch basins, 2023. This is a City of Tacoma Environmental Services program to raise awareness of stormwater pollution. (You can help!) Untreated water from our driveways, streets and sidewalks can damage the ecosystem in the Sound. The slogan shows up in five languages, English, Khmer, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Twulshootseed, and environmentally friendly paint was used in a program to beautify as well as educate.
Project director Kal Barteski and various artists, SEAWALLS project "Artists for Oceans," Churchill, Manitoba, 2017. 18 murals were created by artists from around the world to focus on environmental issues like the plight of the polar bear, ocean health, and remote, vulnerable communities like Churchill, "polar bear capital of the world" (a tourist town that "does an amazing job of responsible tourism.") On left, Pat Perry, Mayday, right, DULK (Antonio Segura), The Last Winter, center, Aaron Li-Hill, Untitled.
Steve McPherson, Correlation, 2016, made of plastic debris from the North Kent Coast. "While it is impossible to ignore the environmental concerns present in his work, he draws analogies with his practice akin to the role of archaeologist/collector/and paradoxical treasure hunter. In Correlation, he uses the journey of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days as the framework to arrange the piece. The colors, here, correspond to the mean average yearly low and high temperatures of each city he visits on his journey."
Building facades by Dutch solar panel startups ZigZag Solar, Solar Visuals, Kameloen Solar, Solarix, 2018 to present. “The sun sees solar modules, we see art.” “Regular blue and black PV cells are not that attractive. These facades generate electricity, but they are also beautiful.” Their special designs (a constructive back, a layer with PV cells, then a print, and finally a glass plate) and angled placements make them as effective as roof-mounted panels and sometimes as much as 25% more effective! (Thanks to Barbara Menne for this entry idea!)
Featured visual artist for this year's Tacoma Ocean Fest, she uses Tibetan Buddhist, Mexican, Indian, and her own Slavic ancestral mythology and symbolism for her works. In the artist's words, "I drew Mount Tahoma as a woman, feeding her watershed with rain and rivers that flow out to the ocean in a timeless cycle. This is inspired by the Latvian concept of maete, or sacred mothers who birth different aspects of the world around us. The sand drawing references a traditional Slavic practice in which women bless a space with symbols drawn with sand on the floor. Sand drawings celebrate the temporary, and are ultimately swept up and returned to the ocean with gratitude." (The deinstallation Ocean Sand Painting Party will be at 7pm Thursday July 20)
Susan Beech, Wildflowers, paper, 2023. Made to illustrate an article in the Nature Conservancy Magazine, Summer 2023, "Bloom and Bust: in Wyoming, warmer springs could spell trouble for flowering plants and the wildlife that depend on the precise timing of their blossoms and berries," by Kirsten Weir. The study showed that the first flowers of spring are now blossoming an average of 17 days sooner than they had in the 1970s because of a 3.6 degree rise in temperatures. "The changing bloom cycles in Grand Teton could create an ecological mismatch for the wildlife that have adapted to depend on those plants. Plants change their flowering dates in response to the climate, but many species of insects and birds time their emergence or migration to the day length. That discrepancy could affect wildlife's survival."
This paper artist from the UK uses crepe paper dyed with tea or painted with powder paints to create her astonishingly delicate and lifelike replicas. She sees her paper flowers as more sustainable than the fresh flower industry, with its vast use of pesticides, water, and transport.
(Thanks to my sister Mary Lyverse for suggesting this artist!)
Leandro Erlich, Order of Importance, sand sculpture installation, Miami Beach, 2019. 66 life-size sand replicas of cars and trucks in a traffic jam line up along the ocean front, left to slowly degrade as a kind of relic, a reminder of our fragility and the rising sea level. The Argentinian conceptual artist comments, "the climate crisis has become an objective problem that requires immediate solutions. As an artist, I am in a constant struggle to make people aware of this reality, in particular, the idea that we cannot shrink away from our responsibilities to protect the planet."
Penelope Davis, Sea Change, 2017, installation of silicon casts. This Australian artist's response to a jellyfish bloom she saw along the Melbourne coastline, "Jellyfish are a great metaphor for everything going wrong today. They’re beautiful and beguiling but they’re harbingers of doom, a completely malevolent presence. They proliferate in large numbers in places where other species can’t survive – in warmer, highly acidic, and polluted waters. They create their own ecosystems by altering the nutrients in their environment, which makes it hard for other organisms to survive. In effect, they represent the last ones standing after everything else is gone."
Creating molds of throwaway plastic items out of floppy, translucent silicon, she then constructed 53 jellyfish sculptures to hang in their own kind of bloom. "Although beautiful and ethereal from a distance, they seemed menacing, other worldly, and industrial upon closer inspection. Constructed with the detritus of human consumption, Sea Change calls attention to the human behaviors that have led to the climate crisis in the first place."
Klaus Littmann, For Forest:the Unending Attraction of Nature,September-October 2019. A temporary art intervention composed of 300 mature native trees planted inside Worthersee Stadium, Klagenfurt, Austria. Max Peintner's drawing of 1971, The Unending Attraction of Nature, (upper left), which presents a forest as a mere exhibition object, provided his inspiration for the project.
"The installation was a clever play on our emotions when faced with what should be a familiar sight, placed in an entirely different context." It challenges our perception of the relationship between nature and humankind in the Anthropocene, serving as a memorial or warning, for "one day, we might have to admire the remnants of nature in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals."
After the exhibit, the trees were re-planted in a plot near the stadium with an interpretive center.
SaRX 404, Conditional Love, street art, 2021. (location unknown) "In a week where the oceans were literally burning its becoming more and more evident that parents would do almost anything for their kids except reduce their carbon footprint."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.