What story does this picture tell?
Last week I took on the controversial question “What is art?” Like anything subjective or philosophical there is no definitive answer but that does not stop the conversation. This week, in honor of Earth day on Friday, I pose the question:
Art: what is it good for?
In the past month I made a serious decision to re-brand myself as an environmental artist. Like many of us creative folk I have been pondering how I can do something meaningful in the world while I continue to hone my artistic skills. It is why we blog and write eBooks, and offer workshops. We want to help, nurture, change. The tag line on my website is, “Because art can make a difference”.
Art can make a difference.
While I believe that to be true, I wasn’t exactly sure how that would happen, so I started exploring. I Googled environmental art, green art, activist art, and so on. Here are a few of my faves.
Cartoonist and illustrator Stephanie McMillan falls into the category of activist art, in my opinion. She holds no punches with her in-your-face “communication of thoughtful rage.”
In her article Artists: Raise Your Weapons she writes:
If we lived in a time of peace and harmony, then creating pretty, escapist, seratonin-boosting hits of mild amusement wouldn’t be a crime (except perhaps against one’s Muse). If all was well, such art might enhance our happy existence, like whipped cream on a chocolate latte. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure, or decorative art.
But in times like these, for an artist not to devote her/his talents and energies to creating cultural weapons of resistance is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.
Whoa. That is pretty extreme.
Is she saying there is no longer room for anything pretty just for the sake of pretty?
I agree that we all need to be a lot more responsible for addressing the elephant in the room, but maybe the elephant can still wear pink polka dots. Much of my work is pretty and I don’t intend to change that, but I do use the greenest materials I can and I give 3% percent of my earnings for the planet. Small things, more in line with a pistol than a bomb, but I believe if we all do something small while the Stephanies of the world tote the big guns, we are moving in the right direction.
Atist and “Climate Mama” Franke James‘s award winning visual essays address everything GREEN. Franke says this about her work:
I always knew I was an artist. I got my Bachelor’s Degree and Masters in Fine Arts, and worked for many years as an interactive designer, photographer and writer. But it wasn’t until I combined my ability to draw with my passion for the environment that I really found my main purpose in life (and art).
Oh Franke you speak to my heart. Art can make a difference!
I’ve been aware of Great Bowl O’ Fire artist John T. Unger for some time, but recently I looked at him in depth and he definitely fits into my rendition of environmental artist.
I see environmental art as reflective work that may employ a range of art forms to heal and celebrate our bonds with the earth. I am exploring the point of confluence where art merges with environmental restoration.
John says this about his work:
My creative mandate is “sustainable design with an edge.” Just because we’re good doesn’t mean we have to be boring, right? I think there’s a place for rock n’ roll to dance with environmental responsibility in a house shakin’ way. If green products are to compete in the market, they need to be sexy, sleek and chic— cooler than new.
YES! We can be responsible artists and make beautiful things! Art can make a difference in so many ways.
Tell me how do you see art making a difference?
Lastly I want to share with you the project that was born of my intention to attend Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in June. Knowing I’d be in one of the Greenest spots in the country as well as a beautiful one, I wanted to explore what environmental art might be happening there. What I found was bigger and better than I could have imagined and it will be my first official Environmental Art project. Check it out: Journey to Confluence
I will be posting more of my findings all week on my own blog if you are interested. There are so many.
Happy Earth Day
P.S. Check out Tina Jett’s Friday post on Scoutie Girl for some great Earth Day inspiration.