January 12th 2023

Turning Waste into Works of Art

BY Julie Gebhardt

Kaila Katherine

Kaila Katherine

Sustainability in art has taken center stage over the past few decades. It has become a key component with many artists as the impact their work creates raises environmental awareness for a better future, as well as inspiring humans to become more in tune with the ecosystem, how the natural systems work and how essential it is to keep it balanced. Sustainable art also addresses additional topics such as social issues and the changes in our climate that are impacting our planet.  It is about changing ones thinking about what art really is, always evolving, and thought provoking.

There are different forms of sustainable art as well; eco or green art, land art, and reliable energy art.  Eco-art and green-art are terms that have become associated with sustainable art where artists create pieces by using upcycled and recycled elements, organic materials, environmentally friendly materials, elements from the earth such as stone, quartz, and invasive woods. Many green and eco artists use everyday materials such as salvaged materials, household trash, glass and metals to create amazing masterpieces and often look for ways to create without harm to the environment.  An aspect of eco-art is creating a piece to amplify a message, such as activism, or to offer a solution to a problem, work through an issue by creating an installation reflective of what is happening currently. Eco-artist to keep an eye out for are Ruth Wallen, Aviva Rahmani, Olafur Eliasson, Choi Jeong Hwa, and Lorenzo Quinn.

Elena Parouchera Wind Art
Elena Parouchera Wind Art

Another form of sustainable art is land art. Land art can best be described as art that blends in harmony by using what nature and the environment provide, and embedding it into the landscape installation without the use of outside materials.  Also known as earth art, it was part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Artists work with the environment and the resources it has already provided to create a piece that is reflective of that space. A key component to land art is communicating respect for the earth so that the viewer becomes completely immersed in the piece.

Khalil Chishtee’s plastic bag sculptures
Khalil Chishtee’s plastic bag sculpture

Renewable Energy Art is a fairly new genre that is a collection of projects using art, sculpture and design, married with renewable energy to raise awareness.  It can either incorporate renewable energy into the design of the artwork, or utilize renewable energy to operate kinetic aspects of the artwork.  This art form harnesses wind, solar, and other sustainable energy sources, and brings renewable energy to communities highlighting its positive impact on local spaces.  Renewable energy art and science compliment each other by offering pieces that propel us into a better future, one that is greener, and meant to last. Well-known renewable energy artists include: former Apple and Sony designer, Ross Lovegrove who modeled an amazing solar tree that provides street lighting entirely powered by the sun. The objective of the sculpture was demonstrate how we can use aesthetics to promote environmental science. New World Wind has developed ‘wind trees’, used by communities and business; each tree consists of  ‘branches’ topped off by a green leaf that turns the wind into renewable energy.; artist Elana Paroucheva who is well known for her wind sculptures. Her series of wind sculptures are designed to draw the attention of passerby’s with her thought provoking designs and are an eco-conscious solution to energy consumption.

Sustainable art empowers the artist to communicate in a way words cannot about our planet, making people more aware of the state of our planet, allowing for an outpouring of artistic expression while embracing the values that support a sustainable earth and environment.

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