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Encyclopedia > Environmental art

The term Environmental art is used in two different senses.

The term can be used generally to refer to art dealing with ecological issues and/or the natural environment, by

  • raising awareness of the fragility of nature (includes landscape-based photography, painting, drawing, book-works and site-specific art)
  • investigating natural phenomena (includes scientific illustration as well as interdisciplinary art practices)
  • using natural materials gathered outdoors (such as twigs, leaves, stones, soil, feathers; which is often called Nature Art)
  • not contributing to environmental degradation (includes ‘green’ work made from bio-degradable or recycled materials; & ‘Eco sculpture’ which is sensitively integrated into a natural habitat)

The term is also used to refer variously to Site-specific art or to Environmental sculpture, which are often used to create work which is 'environmental' in the former sense, but can also relate to other aspects of their 'environment', such as the formal, the political, the historical, or the social context. Nef pour quatorze reines by Rose-Marie Goulet, a memorial to the École Polytechnique Massacre, featuring sculptural elements integrated into a specially landscaped site Site-specific art is artwork created to exist in a certain place. ... The term environmental sculpture is variously defined. ...

It is possible to trace the growth of environmental art as a 'movement', beginning in the late 1960s or the 1970s. In its early phases it was most associated with sculpture — especially Site-specific art, Land art and Arte povera — having arisen out of mounting criticism of traditional sculptural forms and practices which were increasingly seen as outmoded and potentially out of harmony with the natural environment. The category now encompasses many media. Nef pour quatorze reines by Rose-Marie Goulet, a memorial to the École Polytechnique Massacre, featuring sculptural elements integrated into a specially landscaped site Site-specific art is artwork created to exist in a certain place. ... The Spiral Jetty from atop Rozel Point, in mid-April 2005. ... The term Arte Povera (Italian for poor art) was introduced by the Italian art critic and curator, Germano Celant, in 1967. ...

The Rhythms of Life project by Australian artist Andrew Rogers is the largest contemporary land-art undertaking in the world, forming a chain of stone sculptures, or geoglyphs, around the globe. Monumental geoglyphs have been constructed in seven countries to date: Israel, Chile, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Iceland and China. Future locations will include India, the United States, United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. By completion, the project will have involved over 5,000 people on six continents. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... A geoglyph is a drawing on the ground, or a large motif, (generally greater than 4 metres) or design produced on the ground, either by arranging clasts (stones, stone fragments, gravel or earth) to create a positive geoglyph (stone arrangement/alignment, petroform, earth mound) or by removing patinated clasts to...

The Rhythms of Life sculptures are optimistic metaphors for the eternal cycle of life and regeneration, expressive and suggestive of human striving and introspection. The geoglyphs embrace a wide cultural vision that links memory and various symbols derived from ancient rock carvings, paintings and legends in each region; they punctuate time and extend history into the distant future while delving into the depths of our heritage in pursuit of the spiritual. The exhibition at the Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland is the first general survey of the project.

John Fekner Toxic, Long Island Expressway, Queens, NY.


Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ...

Environmentalism into Art

In identifying Environmental art a crucial cut needs to be made between artists who damage the environment, and those who intend to cause no harm to nature, indeed, their work might involve restoring the immediate landscape to a natural state. For example, despite its aesthetic merits, the American artist Robert Smithson’s celebrated sculpture Spiral Jetty (1969) involved inflicting considerable permanent damage upon the landscape he worked with. The landscape became a form of wasteground, Smithson using a bulldozer to scrape and cut the land, impinging upon the lake. Art was effectively a form of pollution inflicted on the environment. This Environmental Art also raised awareness of the importance in recycling materials. Smithsons Spiral Jetty set in Great Salt Lake, Utah. ... Spiral Jetty, as seen from Rozel Point Spiral Jetty, considered to be the masterpiece of American sculptor Robert Smithson, is the name of an earthwork sculpture built in 1970. ...

The sacredness of nature and the natural environment is often evident in the work of Environmental Artists. Chris Drury instituted a work entitled "Medicine Wheel" which was the fruit and result of a daily meditative walk, once a day, for a calendar year. The deliverable of this work was a mandala of mosaiced found objects: nature art as process art. Chris Drury (Born 1948, Colombo, Sri Lanka) is a British environmental artist. ... Process Art may be understood as an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment and worldview where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art, is not the principal focus. ...

Indeed, such criticism was raised against the European sculptor Christo when he temporarily wrapped the coastline at Little Bay, south of Sydney, Australia, in 1969. Local conservationists staged a protest, arguing that the work was ecologically irresponsible and adversely affecting the local environment, especially the birds that nested in the wrapped cliffs. Complaints were only heightened when several penguins and a seal became trapped under the fabric and had to be cut out. Conservationists' comments attracted international attention in environmental circles, and lead contemporary artists in the region to re-think the inclinations of Land art and Site-specific art. Christo Yavasheff (born June 13, 1935) is an artist popularly known as Christo. ...

In comparison, a committed Environmental artist such as the British sculptor Richard Long has for several decades made temporary outdoor sculptural work by rearranging natural materials found on the site, such as rocks, mud and branches, and which will therefore have no lingering detrimental affect. While leading Environmental artists such as the Dutch sculptor Herman de Vries, the Australian sculptor John Davis and the British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy similarly leave the landscape they have worked with unharmed, and in some cases have in the process of making their work revegetated with appropriate indigenous flora land that had been damaged by human use. In this way the work of art arises out of a sensitivity towards habitat. Detail of Riverlines installed in the lobby of the Hearst Tower (New York City) Richard Long (born June 2, 1945) is an English sculptor, photographer and painter, one of the best known British land artists. ... John Davis was a do do bop, do do bop, do wada, do do bop Australian sculptor and pioneer of Environmental art. ... Andy Goldsworthy (born July 26, 1956) is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist living in Scotland who produces site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings. ...

Alan Sonfist, with his first historical Time Landscape sculpture, proposed to New York City in 1965, visible to this day at the corner of Houston and LaGuardia in New York City’s Greenwich Village, introduced the key environmentalist idea of bringing nature back into the urban environment. Today Sonfist is joining forces with the broad enthusiasm for environmental and green issues among public authorities and private citizens to propose a network of such sites across the metropolitan area, which will raise consciousness of the key role that nature will play in the challenges of the 21st century. Alan Sonfist is New York City based artist most often associated with the Land or Earth Art movement. ...

Probably the most celebrated instance of Environmental art in the late 20th century was 7000 Oaks, an ecological protest staged at Documenta during 1982 by Joseph Beuys, in which the artist and his assistants highlighted the condition of the local environment by attempting to reafforest polluted and damaged land with 7000 oak trees. In the last two decades significant environmentally-concerned work has also been made by Rosalie Gascoigne, who fashioned her serene sculptures from rubbish and junk she found discarded in rural areas, Patrice Stellest, who created big installations with junk, but also pertinent items collected around the world and solar energy mechanisms, and John Wolseley, who hikes through remote regions, gathering visual and scientific data, then incorporates visual and other information into complex wall-scale works on paper. Environmental art or Green art by Washington, DC based glass sculptor Erwin Timmers incorporates some of the least recycled building materials; window glass. Joseph Beuys (IPA: ; May 12, 1921 – January 23, 1986) was an influential German artist who came to prominence in the 1960s. ... Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) was an Australian sculptor who shot to late fame at the age of 57 for her poetic assemblages of eclectic found materials. ... Patrice Stellest (born May 23. ...


  • Catalano, Gary (1985). An Intimate Australia : The Landscape & Recent Australian Art. Sydney, NSW: Hale & Iremonger, 112p. ISBN 0868061263. 
  • Gooding, Mel (2002). Song of the Earth: European Artists and the Landscape. London: Thames & Hudson, 167p. ISBN 0500510164. 
  • Grande, John (1994). Balance: Art and Nature. London: Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-234-4. 
  • Grande, John (2004). Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists. ISBN 0-7914-6194-7. 
  • Sonfist, Alan (2004). Nature: The End of Art. Florence, Italy: Gli Ori,Dist. Thames & Hudson, 280p. ISBN 0615125336. 


  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=1631

See also



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