Climate change and art

March 9, 2019

 

 “When it comes to the environment, time is running out. We must accelerate our response to the threats. Art has an important role in helping society face up to the challenges of climate change and create a more sustainable future for us all.”

 

These are the words of Nicholas Serota, The Chair of Arts Council in England, who spoke out about the pressing matters of climate change. Artists all over the world have used their art to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change. The following American artists have gained popularity through their pieces dedicated to environment preservation.

 

‘Western Flag’ (2017), by John Gerrard, represents the sad reality of pollution and the West’s ignorance towards climate change. Gerrard stated: “One of the greatest legacies of the 20th century is not just population explosion or better standards of living, but vastly raised carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere…this flag gives this invisible gas, this international risk, an image, a way to represent itself.” For his artwork to be created, he took between 10,000-15,000 photos of Spindletop, Texas, where the site of the world’s first major oil discovery is.

 

‘Cascade’ by Alexis Rockman is a large painting which portrays the relationship between nature and industry and the damages that have been caused. In a conversation with The New York Times, Rockman said: “I used to hope that knowledge and information would open our eyes to environmental devastation and that we would save the world. I made art partly to cope with what I was witnessing and to support a campaign for conservation. Over the past two decades, I realized we have a crucial Achilles heel: Our brains are wired to be tribal and to think only in the seasonal short term. The idea of “sacrificing” for the future seems ridiculous to most people when they are entrenched in a daily struggle for survival. Even if they will listen, people just don’t have the collective will to do much.”

 

‘The Peo-ple Cried Mer-cy in the Storm’ by Allison Janae Hamilton is a sculpture which references the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, which caused 2,500 deaths in Florida and 3,000 deaths in the Caribbean. Many of those who perished were black, migrant farm workers who were buried in communal unmarked graves. Hamilton claims that “as climate change continues to threaten our environments, it increases the vulnerability of those already exposed to longstanding environmental injustices. Through the narratives in her artwork, she explores the changing climate as a palpable, human experience.

 

Artists as such have proven that art plays an active role in aiding the issues that society faces. Climate change has reached a critical level and throughout their art, they hope to make a change.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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