Clearly environmental art – works addressing human-authored threats to local and global ecology – did not appear until the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, the famous exposition of chemical pesticides, which saw pollution as a immediately became a national cause. Images of burning rivers, oil spills and animal casualties inspired 22 million Americans—one-tenth of the US population at the time—to demonstrate in cities across the country for clean water and air on April 22, 1970. Artist Robert Rauschenberg, who grew up despising the smell of an oil refinery in his heavily polluted hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, responded that same year with a poster benefiting the American Environment Foundation, “Earth Day”: The Whitening of the Potholed Landscape. -black photos, factory, garbage and an endangered gorilla surround a nicotine-brown image of a bald eagle. Nature was no longer a pure and timeless muse for artists, instead it had become something vulnerable that had been abused by humans. In 1974, photographer Robert Adams published “The New West”, a book depicting human-altered landscapes in Colorado: suburbs, strip malls, and land for sale on the outskirts of cities and towns, areas where natural and The built collide and compromise each other. This period also saw the rise of land art – monumental outdoor projects interacting with nature – some of which were actively environmentalists, notably the work of Agnes Danes, whose most iconic works were in Finland between 1992 and 1996. Entire forest planted is included.
Recently, artists have made these frightening border areas their canvas. Mary Mattingly, who grew up in a Connecticut farming town where drinking water was polluted, has focused on public works that often involve entire communities. Influenced by a century-old ordinance that made it illegal to forage on public land, Mattingly planted a garden on a barge, docking at sites around New York City, including the South Bronx. People who don’t have easy access to grocery stores can collect as much fresh produce as they want. With widespread crop failures and famines predicted by climate scientists, the work speaks as much to the future as to the problems of food access at present.
“Limnal Lacrimosa,” Mattingly’s new project, is currently on view at a former brewery in Kalispell, Mont. Melting ice on the roof is channeled inside, where it flows into lachrymatory vessels – containers that ancient Roman mourners used to hold their tears. The water spills onto the floor, overflowing, before being pumped back up. Space echoes with droplets that have “some sort of abstract glacial time,” she said: slow when cold, fast when warm. Inspired by fast cycles of melting in nearby Glacier National Park, this piece is a skewering way of linking global warming to a state where, Mattingly said, “It doesn’t always seem realistic to talk about climate change in this way. Maybe in New York, where it’s quite acceptable.” Nevertheless, work has become a means of establishing common ground. “The political layer comes last,” she said. “Usually, I walk people through it, and then by the end of the conversation, I talk about how fast the rain and melt cycles are changing. And people totally agree. Or if I even say ‘climate change’… you can tell people, and they’re really not ready for it.”
Mattingly is part of a group of actions that encourage the type of behavior needed to combat climate change – cooperation and cooperation between strangers. What the artists behind these works have in common is their constant self-examination: how are they contributing to the disaster through their art? In 2019, painter Gary Hume (whose canvases do not specifically depict an environmental subject) asked his studio manager to research emissions associated with shipping his works from London, where he is partly in New York, where he was doing a show. In the Matthew Marks Gallery. Climate change researcher Danny Chivers found that ocean freight would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent compared to air. “There was no downside,” Hume said. Work shipping by sea was also much cheaper. “I was ashamed of myself that it took me so long,” he said.