Sustainable Art: What is it and how do you make it?

As our world has been adopting the idea of going green, the art community is no exception. Many facets of the art world, from galleries to artists, have placed an emphasis on environmental consciousness.

This article will teach you about the different forms of sustainable art and their key players.

It will also give you suggestions on how to make your creative space more environmentally friendly.

What is sustainable art?

Sustainable art addresses the movement towards environmental consciousness and awareness in a variety of ways. Similarly to the rest of the art world, artists have their own interpretations of what it means to be sustainable through art. Many artists choose to focus on sparking conversation surrounding the climate crisis, while others have taken a more straightforward approach through trading in some of their current materials for sustainable alternatives.

Types of sustainable art

Through the move towards environmental consciousness in art, a few types have emerged. The predominant forms are discussed below, along with artists that have popularized them.

Upcycling

Most of us discard trash without even considering a potential second use, but for some sustainable artists, this is what fuels their inspiration. Upcycling is the idea of creating art from objects that are broken or are no longer usable. It gives the items a second life while preventing them from ending up in landfills.

Art piece of plastic cup over legs to represent a skirt
Martha Haversham, “Plastic Cup Dress” (2019), Felixstowe Found Fashion Week SS2019 (smallditch found fashion project)

An artist known for her work in this area is Martha Haversham. Although she uses some natural materials like flowers and feathers, she also collects trash on her daily walks to create many of her pieces. Her use of these materials in her collage pieces often blur the line between high fashion and humor.

For another example of an artist using non-traditional and natural materials, take a look at this article. It discusses Japan-based artist Kosen Ohtsubo’s use of fruits and vegetables in his works.

Closed Loop Fashion

Closed-loop fashion is an idea that was brought about to lower the waste created by the fashion industry. It takes garments that have reached the end of their life and transforms them into something new.

A fashion brand that has built their identity on creating a closed-loop system is For Days. Their garments have a lifetime membership, so if the item becomes damaged, you send it back and they send you a new one.

The damaged garments that are sent back are then broken down to be reused in future products. Check out this link if you are interested in learning about similar fashion brands!

Renewable Energy Sculptures

Renewable energy sculptures are a unique and fun way to help bridge the gap between artistic expression and renewable energy generation. These sculptures harness renewable energy through additions of solar panels and turbines.

This energy then powers the communities around them, and can also be smaller scale like powering an electric car.

Sculpture of a female figure with wind turbines in the city

 

Elena Paroucheva (Wind Art Sculpture Project)

One of the most popular artists known for her renewable energy sculptures is Elena Paroucheva. In her work, she integrates wind turbines into massive sculptures depicting women.

She does this by strategically placing them along the neckline or in other areas where accessories are worn.

Paroucheva has created sculptures that have made otherwise drab wind turbines, much more lively.

Land Art

Land Art, also frequently referred to as Earth or Eco Art, is an art form that emerged from the conceptual art movement. It’s the process of creating pieces that are embedded in the natural environment through the use of natural materials.

A large spiral piece built into the land on the salt flats in Utah

 

Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty” (1970), Great Salt Lake, UT

Robert Smithson helped pioneer the movement through his use of the natural ecosystem as a canvas.

A popular example of his work is Spiral Jetty, a 1,500 ft long and 15 ft wide coil created in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. It’s made out of basalt rock and salt crystals. Smithson’s piece forces the viewer to not only take in the work itself, but to see the environment with it.

How you can make a more environmentally conscious creative space

If you’re ready to take the dive into sustainable art but aren’t sure where to start, here are some suggestions. These can lower your environmental impact without completely changing your current creative process.

  1. Dispose of your materials properly rather than rinsing pigments and solvents down the drain. You can wait until the pigment separates out of the solvent for reuse in later projects. If you are really committed to filtering your pigments, this resource provides a model for an at home filtering system. Additionally, the same resources also has tips on how to handle different paints and solvents.
  2. Recycle your empty tubes and containers.
  3. Use non-toxic materials when possible.
  4. Lower your paper use by using a tablet when you’re creating rough sketches or plans.
  5. Shop locally for materials.
  6. If you’re shipping multiple pieces to one person, consider bundling them together to lower the carbon emissions.

Summary

Sustainable art is a movement that is all about innovation and awareness of the impact we have on the environment.

Whether you make a piece that is inspired by the environment, or use materials that are environmentally conscious, all encourage conversations about sustainability.

There are so many ways to create sustainable art, and whether your effort is big or small, every piece will create a healthier planet.

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