When people use the term environmental art, they can mean anything from artists who paint landscapes to site specific artists and more. I use the term to specify those artists who are commenting on environmental issues with their work. Those who inspire me most are often the same ones who haunt me, the artists who work towards making a positive change for the environment through their art.
Here are some links to a few of my favorites. I've already mentioned Andy Goldsworthy. Some other favs include Pam Longobardi, Lynne Hull, Chakaia Booker, Judy Pfaff, Chris Jordan, and Emmet Gowin to name a few. That should keep you busy for a while.
I apprenticed with Pam Longobardi. She is best known for creating art from plastic trash in the ocean that drifts ashore on its way towards the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre is now home to a floating island of trash from all over the world that is reported to be larger than the continental United States. The plastic Longobardi collects for her Drifter's Project was drifting on these currents towards the gyre and washed ashore on beaches like South Point in Hawaii. You can read more on Pam's project here.
The installation I worked on started out very much like the image here, with boxes of plastic first transformed by the ocean and the elements and then again by Longobardi. The most powerful thing about her work is the way you experience it in stages. The first time I saw her work, I saw something beautiful, something that made me smile and wonder, until I stepped closer, and then I noticed what it was made from. As I explored, the smile faded, and I was hit by the sheer scope of the waste I use and discard every day.
You cannot stand in the face of her art and not think about all those little plastic things you throw away. Do you really need another plastic hairbrush, another disposable razor, another plastic Kuerig cup for your individual coffee? Where will these things, items that can take over 1000 years to break down, end up?
Longobardi's art haunts me at strange times. In the grocery store when I have forgotten to bring my reusable bags, or at the gas station when I take a swig from the water bottle I picked up. I am reminded of all that plastic killing our oceans.The images of Longobardi's installations live in me, often spurring me to make smarter decisions. It's the little changes like using less saran wrap and more washable storage containers, or metal drinking bottles and reusable glass and ceramic cups. I have to believe these little changes will make a difference, particularly if we all start making them together.