These eco friendly artists are making important statements about the planet
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Ecological Art or “Eco Art” is a contemporary form of environmental art created by global artists who are concerned about local and global environmental situations.
With various forms of pollution becoming increasingly serious, the field is growing rapidly. Hundreds of artists are working around the world to make a statement that they hope will strike the consciousnesses of us all.
That statement could be a visual one, which forces the viewer to pay attention to something that may otherwise be overlooked. Or it could be a material one, with eco friendly media employed instead of traditional oil paints, for example.
Here, I’ve picked what I think are the top 10 eco friendly artists in the world right now, rated for their important messages, their diverse media and of course, their outstanding talent.
10+ Eco Friendly Artists Who Will Blow Your Mind
Born in Milan, Italy, Bettina Werner is the world-renowned “Queen of Salt.” Yep, she’s the first artist to exclusively use salt as an artistic medium. For her, salt represents knowledge and wisdom, and has a long history and intimate necessity in human life. It’s the “Fifth element” for its importance to life on Earth.
Salt was once more valuable than gold, and has even functioned as currency making a mainstay of trade all over the world. Plus, it holds an essence of cleansing and healing.
Bettina’s rise to eco-artdom began in the 1990’s, when she was discovered at the age of 25 by the Marisa del Re Gallery in America, one of the most world’s most prestigious art galleries. She currently resides between the Hamptons and the Financial District of New York City, where she is contributing to a new beginning with the cathartic power of her one of a kind salt artworks.
Werner’s striking salt crystal artworks, be they sculptures or ‘paintings,’ are vivid reflections that chronicle her incredible journey. She harnesses the beauty of nature through Sicilian salt to create unique visual commentaries on life, love, and spirituality.
The best works of art don’t necessarily last the longest. Take the case of Andy Goldsworthy, for example. He’s one of the most renowned ‘land artists’ in the world, whose work is by nature transitory. Some of it lasts for a matter of minutes, while others may exist for years. But all are doomed to eventual disappearance.
Two of Goldsworthy’s most noteworthy installations include With Spire (2008) and Wood Line (2010), which used natural materials found nearby, including wood from Monterey cypress and eucalyptus trees (considered an invasive species).
But wood isn’t the only natural material he employs. He has produced works using everything from icicles and mud to flower petals and stones. Because of the ephemeral nature of many of his works, they are often captured in photographs and video, such as in the 2001 documentary ‘Rivers and Tides’, which uncovers a broad range of Goldworthy’s work and his artistic process, too.
Goldsworthy’s first sculpture at the Presidio was a towering spire made from 35 cypress trunks that is located near a Monterey cypress grove. The older trees that were used in the Spire, pictured below, were removed by the National Park Service at the end of their lifecycle to make way for younger saplings.
To stabilise the sculpture, the keystone tree was anchored into a metal sleeve within a 12-foot-deep hole and surrounded with concrete. At its base, the sculpture is 15 feet in diameter. The Spire soars 90 feet above the ground, and at its base a new crop of trees have been planted. In time, the towering spire will decay, and the trees surrounding it will continue to grow until they completely obscure it.
3. Jeff Hong
The New York-based animation artist Jeff Hong is one of the most popular eco friendly artists in the world. He has completely warped Walt Disney’s motto “where dreams come true.” The illustrator imagines some of Disney’s most popular characters battling the currently grim conditions facing many in the world.
Thus, we see mermaid Ariel emerge from a filthy sea, slick with an oil spill. Cinderella lurks in a dirty alley at night with her ball gown in tatters, after an apparent assault. Mulan covers her pretty face with a mask as she walks around the smoggy streets of contemporary China. Bambi is turned into a wall trophy by a hunter. Just to mention a few!
Through these kitschy and controversial images, Mr Hong makes bold socio-ecological statements. He stresses that if we don’t safeguard the planet and each other, the fairytale will most certainly not have a happy ending.
Marina’s work is rubbish – literally. This is one of those brilliant eco friendly artists who uses upcycled trash in her art to raise awareness of ocean and beach pollution.
Listed with the Women Environmental Artists Directory, the California based artist partners with various anti-pollution organisations, such as Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Ruckus Roots and the United Nations Special Assembly on Climate Change.
DeBris uses marine debris (as her name states) to create something rapidly gaining popularity in eco-chic circles: ‘trashion’. That is to say, art, jewellery, fashion and objects for the home created from used, thrown-out, found and repurposed elements.
5. Ruth Wallen
Ruth Wallen is another of our eco friendly artists. Her work encourages a dialogue around ecological and social issues. Wallen’s multilayered installations and performances have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at a national and international level. Most of her work is either site specific, responds to an environmental or social issue, or both.
For example, she has made an installation based on the fact that frogs are disappearing at an alarming rate in many parts of the world. This is a clear indicator of chemical pollution.
Another of her works, ‘Children’s Forest Nature Walk,’ is made of digital panels comprised of composites of drawings and stories generated from youth workshops she runs.
Ruth has also published several contemporary art essays and is a senior faculty member of the interdisciplinary arts MFA program at Goddard College and a lecturer at the University of California, San Diego.
Eco friendly artist Aviva Rahmani’s projects involve strong collaborations. She works with an interdisciplinary community of scientists, environmentalists and other eco artists. Her conceptual artwork embraces a wide range of projects, from complete landscape restorations to museum venues. Besides just painting, she also uses sound and photography in her work.
Aviva Rahmani’s Performing Ecology, Public Art and Visuals have often connected her name to Ecofeminism. The term originated with the French writer Francoise d’Eaubonne through her book, Le Feminisme ou la Mort, in 1974.
Aviva certainly is line with the movement, which connects the exploitation and domination of women with that of the environment. It also argues that there is historical connection between women and nature.
7. Diane Burko
The painter and photographer from Brooklyn is another of our top eco friendly artists. She has always focused her work on monumental and geological phenomena, based on her ability to investigate actual locations on the ground and from the air.
Over the course of 40 years, Burko has primarily established herself as a landscape painter. But over the past decade, she has also gained recognition as a photographer. Her cinematic, aerial explorations document the current state of the natural environment.
Since 2000, Burko has studied volcanic tectonics and glacial geology, which has led her to her panoramic yet intimate imagery. Throughout her career, she has received many awards for her work, and in 2013, she received an Artist Fellowship Grant for her Arctic Circle Expedition from the Independence Foundation.
In 2014, Ian Unsworth created Pangea Sculptures after he came across fantastical sculptures at a roadside in Africa. Their beauty captured his heart so much, he met with the artist, Moses Ocheing, to arrange for a shipment to the UK.
Thanks to Pangea Sculptures, Ocheing’s work now reaches a wider audience. The works have also caused a ripple of positive change in Moses’ community. Today, Moses is undoubtedly one of Nairobi’s top eco friendly artists. Consequently, he has trained and guided more eco-sculptors to follow in his footsteps. Today, he has over 30 people helping to grow his sustainable business.
Moses and his team are currently working on The Ark Collection. This is a diverse collection of animals, from elegant giraffes and life-sized elephants, to gorillas, rhinos and even a frog chorus. The team make each sculpture from recycled metal discarded by the car industry, which would otherwise go to landfill.
9. Alan Sonfist
The New York artist Alan Sonfist is another of our top eco friendly artists. His Land Art is a kind of style that links landscapes and artworks.
That said, this eclectic artist embraces painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and multimedia. He also makes green art collages that combine everyday cultural materials with elements of art and nature. By using recyclable materials, he transforms ordinary objects into art.
His narration of nature is celestial and earthly at the same time. At times, leaves may cover a canvas, or branches may stand as totems to portray a world adorned by nature. At other times, he paints using earth pigments obtained exactly from the site portrayed.
10. Aurora Robson
Canadian Aurora Robson is another of the world’s most fabulous eco friendly artists. She’s a multimedia activist who creates sculptures out of waste. Aurora has lived and worked in New York for two decades. Consequently, she’s become very conscious of the problem on waste in the metropolis.
Robson likes to turn everyday trash into environmentally-friendly works of art to remind the public how much waste is generated by we humans. Her intricate art pieces resemble abstract organisms or objects, often enhanced by the use of LEDs to create a supernatural effect. Through her art, everyday rubbish gets transformed into a vibrant, vital object.
11. Fiona Campbell
This UK visual artist creates mixed media artworks. She often blurs boundaries between sculpture, drawing, textiles and installation. Campbell has also tested her artistry in film, sculpture and performance art.
Incorporating found materials, her creations are the epitome of tentacularity. They show how we are part of a complex web of relationships from micro to macro. Campbell’s artwork evokes connections found in nature as metaphors for life, vitalism and regeneration.
Increasingly, environmental concerns inform the content of her work. The human exploitation of nature, over-consumption and waste, in particular. Her work also makes an activist statement against unethical factory farming, human abuse of wildlife and plastic in our oceans.
Alongside her artistic practice, Fiona Campbell works within the community on socially engaged projects, as an educator collaborating and sharing skills, as well as curating exhibitions.
Image below: Fiona Campbell Glut 2018 recycled & found materials 270cm(h)x180cm(w)x90cm(d) Photo Mike Garlick
12. Moffat Takadiwa
Moffat Takadiwa is a contemporary visual artist from Zimbabwe. He gives to life stupendous creations using trash and upcycled clothing. He has exhibited his eco friendly artwork at galleries in Denmark, Paris, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Dubai, Harare and Los Angeles. For the latter he is represented by Nicodim Gallery.
Takadiwa trained at the Harare Polytechnic where he graduated with a BA Honors in Fine Art and his practice involves creating beautiful objects from items you would typically see at the bottom of a landfill.
He has recently joined forced with sustainability platform BLANK, which uses art and food to encourage carbon literacy. The experiential event called ‘Watching Our Waste’ took place in Los Angeles. It showcased environmentally-focused fashion, regenerative art and fine dining that was all low-waste and eco-friendly.