Eco Art?

This post is directly from the Healthy Art Program: An Energy Smart Exhibition blog that I wrote.

The past few weeks I have been working on my pieces for the Healthy Art Program: An Energy Smart Exhibition. Admittedly it’s been more difficult than I anticipated. I was struggling with the content/subject. Most of my artwork is already directly inspired and influenced by nature and natural history. So why would I do anything different? I know whatever my subject is that it will relate to the environment. Does this make my work Eco art? Is this the point of this project?

From the Greenmuseum's website, a definition of Eco Art:

In a general sense, [Eco-art] is art that helps improve our relationship with the natural world. There is no definition set in stone. This living worldwide movement is growing and changing as you read this. Much environmental art is ephemeral, designed for a particular place (site-specific) and involves collaborations between artists and others such as scientists, educators and community groups.

See "A Brief Introduction" by Clive Adams of the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World.

Some environmental art:

Interprets nature, creating artworks that inform us about nature and its processes, or about environmental problems we face

Is concerned with environmental forces and materials, creating artworks affected or powered by wind, water, lightning, even earthquakes

Re-envisions our relationship to nature, proposing through their work new ways for us to co-exist with our environment

Reclaims and remediates damaged environments, restoring ecosystems in artistic and often aesthetic ways

The more I thought about it the clearer it became that for me this should be about the materials and process. My art subject already speaks to some of the above statements and for me, this project isn't necessarily about making eco art. What I want to explore is a more practical approach; like how to use new materials, how to reduce waste. Is this something that is cost effective, easy, and convenient? Materials are expensive already, will using earth friendly products cost more, are they harder to obtain.

So while I am making my artwork I am also doing a lot of research. I think it is worthwhile for artists to use earth friendly materials even if they are not “eco artists.” I have been experimenting with making my own paints, oil and tempera, as well as finding non toxic solvents, earth friendly paper and other goods. I have also been measuring my energy use. Although I am not quite sure aside from the basics (CFL or led lights, etc) of how to change that.

New Eco Friendly Materials

The Art Inspector came to my studio a few days ago and gave me some new materials and took away a lot of my current ones.

I was given Red River GreenPix Photo Matte paper, FSC wood panels, raw pigments, eco glue and sealer. I will be receiving bees wax and watercolor paper soon. She took away quite a few materials including my sealer, oil paint, adhesives, and paint thinner.

One thing we talked about that really peaked my interest was about the amount of waste that is created from art making and how that impacts the environment. I am a materials based artist, my materials and processes are very important part of art making for me. Although I try and reuse and recycle a lot of objects for my art, at times I have a lot of left over materials/garbage. I am really interested in creating without wasting.

An example of a process that creates a lot of waste is my photographic encaustic work. I use a large amount of paper towels, rubber gloves and electricity. Digging down even deeper I have a lot of my materials shipped to me. The boxes and packaging that they come in are waste. If I print my own photos there are the paper trimmings, empty ink cartridges and the packaging they come in.

It’s all very interesting to me and something I really want to explore further. I am an artist whose primary inspiration and subject matter is nature. It bothers me that I have not really thought about how my art making process impacts the environment.