Environmentalist Artists: Climate Change Awareness

Kerry-Ann Holleyman, August 1, 2019

In the 21st Century climate change is an inescapable, but hard to face aspect of our world. From rising sea levels to melting glaciers and rising temperatures, scarcely a day goes by when we are not confronted by a discussion about climate change. However, in our day to day lives, the immediate impact of climate change can be hard to see (many of us do not live near glaciers or notice the tiny yet devastating yearly changes in temperature that effect our planet).

Environmentalist artists are taking steps to make us take notice. Here are three great examples of modern artworks created to raise awareness of climate change and its environmental impacts...

1. Michele Banks – 'The Arctic Bride'

Washington D.C. based artist Michele Banks created a piece named ‘The Arctic Bride’ to highlight the melting of the polar ice caps. The piece consists of a typical white wedding dress, the hem of which cascades into a muddy, green and brown puddle.

The top of the dress represents the white purity of ice and is the first aspect of the piece visible in the viewer’s eye line. As the eye travels down the dress viewer’s notice the dull and dirty skirts, representing the melted muddy ice as it meets its carbon base.

The piece has been described as a metaphor of how while conditions in the Arctic seem unproblematic at first glance, with further examination it can be observed that things are deteriorating at a dramatic rate.

Described as a ‘marriage of ice and carbon’, Banks hopes that by using a wedding dress, the project will bring climate change closer to home and commented ‘I think we can all agree that this marriage will be dangerous and damaging for the beautiful bride.’ 

2. Professor Ed Hawkins’ – 'Warming Stripes'

Although not strictly identifying himself as an ‘artist’ Ed Hawkins’, a climate scientist for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, used charts and graphs (a key element of displaying scientific findings) to effectively highlight changing climates throughout the years.

The striking array of stripes produced by Hawkins’ descend from a cool blue to a hot red, representing rising global temperatures and anomalies through the years. The sudden change from the blue to the red truly highlights the alarming speed of the changing climate from 1850 – 2017.

American weather broadcaster Jeff Berardelli was immediately struck by the piece, and in an effort to spread the image and its message even further, asked other meteorologists to wear similar stripes on-screen on the first day of summer in 2018.

The image was printed onto clothing, ties and mugs, and was frequently featured on news and weather broadcasts throughout America. This subliminally broadcasted the message of changing climates regularly, ensuring global warming was at the forefront of the viewers' subconscious minds.

3. Courtney Mattison – 'Fragile Earth'

Another devastating impact of the changing climate is the destruction of the oceans coral reefs. Increasing global temperatures means the oceans have got warmer – the corals are bleached, and eventually they deteriorate.

Marine Biology student Courtney Mattison likened this consequence to ‘a major city going bankrupt, and letting the buildings fall apart’.

In order to showcase this effect of climate change, Mattison sculpted a thousand-pound ceramic coral reef likeness, with the centre of the piece adorned in the vibrant colours of the coral reef we all know so well. As the piece starts to spiral outwards, the colours begin to fade, eventually transitioning into a faded white/grey.

While the message of the piece is immediately clear, the finer features of the artwork further display the role humans play in the destruction of the coral reefs. Juxtaposing the smooth colourful ceramics in the centre of the piece, Mattison left visible fingerprints over the dull grey outer pieces, highlighting the fact that we are directly responsible.

With our climate changing at an alarming rate, efforts are ramping up to preserve the environment before irreversible damage is done. Artwork is an effective way of ensuring we will not forget the impact our behaviour and will hopefully encourage us to change and adapt to greener lifestyles.

Written by Kerry-Ann Holleyman - Team Assistant at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

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