Sustainable or science art is a great tool to communicate complex scientific concepts to the public who may otherwise not be exposed to these issues. There are many opportunities to be creative, reduce your footprint and educate others through the use of discarded materials. Incorporating sustainability into my artwork is one example of how I live sustainably.
Inspired by the fact that many materials used in art are toxic, I began creating sustainable works of art in 2010. During my final semester double majoring in Sustainability and Studio Art at Baldwin Wallace University, I conducted an independent study in sustainable art to explore sustainable materials, subject matter and the use of art to educate the public on sustainability issues. Works of art I created during the study included:
- A sculpture made from wood, seeds, and other plant parts
- Sustainably-printed photographs featuring blended images of native species
- Collages of invasive species made from invasive plant materials
- An upcycled trash sculpture collaborative with “junkyard artist” P.R. Miller, also known as the Grizzled Wizard.
I found that while it was easy to create art with environmental messages, finding sustainable, quality materials was a greater challenge. Several types of printing processes, photo paper, and adhesives were tested before I found materials that were both high quality and sustainable. I have continued to create sustainably-printed native species photographs and invasive species collages, which are often exhibited together to deepen viewers’ understanding of the complex relationships between native and invasive species.
European Corn Borer, 2013 Japanese Beetle, 2012
Blended Native Species Photographs
The goals of the blended native species photographs are to:
- Help viewers develop an awareness of species in their backyards to encourage local conservation efforts
- Depict nature as a spiritual, inspirational, and regenerative place
- Encourage the incorporation of native plants into gardens and landscapes by showing unique species they attract
- Lessen the fear and dislike of invertebrate species by featuring their beauty and contributions to ecosystems
- Show that photography can be both long lasting and sustainable
Images are printed by a company powered by 100% green energy on sustainable archival paper made from renewable bamboo fibers with a light fastness rating of over 100 years.
Luna, 2014 Dogbane Mushroom, 2013
Invasive Species Collages
Invasive species are species that are introduced purposely or accidentally to an area they do not inhabit naturally, and disrupt the balance of local ecosystems by out-competing species that are native to the area. Most invasive plant species are pulled by hand and burned, or treated with herbicides. While working with the invasive plant strike team at the Cleveland Metroparks, I wondered if these plants could be put to better use by incorporating them into art to educate the public on the dangers of planting exotic (non-native) species in their gardens. Since individuals can play such a crucial role in the spreading of invasive species, I created this series of artwork to educate viewers on the damage caused by invasive species and to help individuals identify local invasive plant and animal species. All collages in this series are made with various invasive plant materials and are adhered with sustainable plant-based glue.
Red-eared Slider, 2013 Asian Ladybird Beetle, 2013
The most rewarding part of my art is that I help educate the community about issues that are local to Northeast Ohio that they can personally take action on. I currently display my work with other inspiring science artists at Art.Science.Gallery. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to present sustainable works of art as gifts to guest keynote speakers at Baldwin Wallace University, including David LaRue, Chuck Fowler, Richard M. Daley, Susan Solomon and other individuals powering the sustainability movement in Cleveland and beyond. So far, I have focused primarily on depicting invasive insects, but plan to explore invasive fish, bird, reptiles, and amphibians. With growing concerns that Asian Carp will invade Lake Erie, I plan to focus on creating works of invasive aquatic species in the Great Lakes. I have also been granted permission by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to collect invasive bird feathers to create collages for display in an educational capacity. I hope that my artwork inspires people to request native plants at local nurseries and discourages the sale or introduction of invasive or exotic species.
Photo by Jeffery Katzin, 2014
To view or purchase my artwork, visit The Scoff Patch Etsy Art Shop.
To learn more about local invasive species programs, resources, and volunteer opportunities, visit the Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio Invasive Plants Council and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources websites.
By Emily Bryant, Analyst