The impact of the environment
Within the genre of land art, there is an important distinction between artists who care about the potential damage their art may have on the environment and those who care only about the aesthetic results. Robert Smithson’s 1969 work While Spiral Jetty is regarded as his seminal work. However, it also resulted in permanent damage to the landscape with which he worked. The criticism that was given to such works caused land artists to reconsider the effects that their work was having on the environment and the possibilities of creating more sustainable art. One artist who attempted to avoid injuring the landscape, or at least minimising the damage, is Richard Long, who used natural materials found on-site to make temporary outdoor sculpture work. Other pieces were borne out of a sensitivity towards a habitat, such as works from Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor who creates outdoor sculptures using a multitude of natural matter, from ice and snow to twigs, petals, clay, stones, grass, and leaves. Such pieces led to Environmental Art, which is concerned with our relationship with nature, raising awareness of what we’re doing to the planet or looks at innovative ways in which we can share the world.
Since the beginning of the Millennium, worldwide concerns over issues related to the environment, including new genetic technologies, species depletion, global warming, and pollution, have risen. Artists have increasingly responded to our cultural needs and our practical and active role in social and environmental issues. This led to Eco Art. It’s essentially a form of Environmental Art that not only looks at environmental issues but suggests paradigms as solutions sustainable with our planet’s resources and life forms. Further, it often includes restoration of damaged or polluted landscapes and ecosystems. As an interventionist, community-based restorative, activists, and socially engaged art, it makes us aware of the issues, creates conversations, and changes how we act towards other species, as well as promotes a longer-term respect for the natural world of which we share. Artists often work with architects, planners, and scientists, among others, with the aim of directly intervening with environmental degradation.
Modern environmental artists
With an emphasis on climate change and environmental concerns, modern environmental artists aim to demonstrate just how important it is that we have a relationship with the natural world. Artists Aviva Rahmani, for the past two decades, has been looking at that relationship and creating artwork that explores reclamation or transformation. She had worked on a key art project from 1991 to 2000 called Ghost Nets. The purpose was to establish a replicable model for sustainable restoration, salt and fresh water included. Such artists have realised the importance of using art as a way of making an impact on the environment, raising awareness, or producing knowledge. In the Anthropocene era, when human behaviour began to greatly impact Earth’s ecosystems and geology, the works of environmental artists appear to be more relevant than ever before.