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10 Climate Change Art Projects Grappling With Hope and Reality

Rachel Lark - May 15, 2024

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Art is one of the most effective ways to comment about the world’s struggles by inciting action and empathy. The same is true for climate change art. These are just several examples in a long history of global artists in all mediums that evoke realism and hope. Explore these paintings, photos, and installations to see how it make you feel when grappling with the severity of the climate crisis.

1. “If the Sky Were Orange” Exhibition

This was a special exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art, curated by Jeff Goodell. It explored several climate issues, including the stability of Antarctica’s ice sheets and energy creation. The title of the collection of 10 artists was a painting by Aaron Morse called “Cloud World (#3)” which shows the world coated in an ominous, warm sky. Though it is a stunning piece, this setting was once previously unimaginable, but now, greenhouse gases could make anything happen.

2. The Tempestry Project

Do you like fiber art? The Tempestry Project is a knitted visual art project that shows the world’s temperatures in a gradient. The colors get closer to orange and red to show heat in an area, and green and blue are for more temperature to cold climates. The name is a play on words with “tapestry” and “temperature.” Artists make a tapestry for countless cities, setting them up in lines so you can see what cities are similar.

3. Plastic Ocean Installation

MessyMsxi is an artist from Singapore who went through the trouble of collecting 500 kilograms, or 20,000 individual pieces, of ocean trash to create a gorgeous yet haunting exhibition. It reveals exactly how much trash is in the ocean and in what varieties. 

You might be surprised by some of the items you see hanging from the ocean-blue ceilings, including bottles, deli meat packaging, and bags. Standing in the installation surrounds you in the trash as if you’re an underwater magnet bringing all of the waste to you.

4. Richard Misrach, “Untitled [New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 2005]”

This photograph is hanging proudly in the National Gallery of Art, and it talks about a lot more than just climate change. The origin of this photo is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of buildings and homes were vandalized and destroyed, and this image is one of them. On the doors, it says phrases like “The end was here,” “Do not enter,” and “The South will rise again.”

The image reveals how polarizing and revealing a natural disaster can be. It transforms people into doing and saying things they would normally not in a public way. Misrach reveals this terror, fear, and sadness in a single, stark image.

5. Terry Evans 

Another photographer took the time to capture the beauty of prairies with a twist. Evans spliced these images and restitched them together to form a new ecosystem. It shows the similarities of these habitats from different geographies, highlighting how important it is to care for them. Evans took care to even weave the clouds in the sky.

6. We Are Frying!

This street art piece by Luzinterruptus forced people to encounter how the beauty of seasons is changing for the worse. The piece traveled to many places, but it was always outside, surrounded by a circle of trees. Leaves would fall, and a central screen would show the leaves falling to the ground, burning and frying completely before hitting the ground. When it got there, the leaves turned into potato chips. This is how hot the planet could get.

7. Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk is a British artist that beautifully explains why artists are so interested in trash as a form of artistic expression. He comments how humans “throw” things in the trash instead of placing them, signifying how much metaphorical force humans place on the act of getting rid of something. His work attempts to embrace these ideals by revealing how much force pieces of trash have on the planet. Most of his work is in your face with a contemporary, avant-garde edge.

8. Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson creates large-scale exhibits that completely surround you, and many pieces focus on triggering the senses. Many people see art, but they don’t feel it — and Eliasson wants to ensure the viewer experiences it in more ways than visual, because it attaches to them more emotionally. Once, he had glacial ice delivered to the Paris Climate Change Conference. 

Another concept called “Life” had viewers interact with a constantly running livestream of sounds while walking around a wooden bridge surrounded by green pond water. The atmosphere speaks for itself, as the jarring nature of traffic against the smell of the water confuses the mind.

9. Flint Water

In a more experimental performance art-style setting, artist Pope L. capitalized on the Flint Water crisis in an artistic and meaningful way. He and his team highlighted the underlying capitalist and systemic issues of the disaster by selling Flint’s tap water to people to heighten people’s awareness. 

Not only was this a daring exhibition that could easily be misconstrued, it flipped the corporate issue on its head by taking the proceeds that would go to unethical organizations selling water and putting it toward nonprofits that were helping fight the problems.

10. Gallery of Hope

The Art x Climate gallery is a collaboration between 92 artists and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It celebrates the beauty that births when science and art meld, proving they are not mutually exclusive to incite positive change toward bettering the climate. The gallery features everything from data to dystopian landscape painting. It also breaches multiple climate issues, including politics alongside conservation. It is a smartly curated space that acknowledges the complexity of climate discourse.

Climate Change Art to Change Your Perspective

Not every piece of climate change art will inspire you to dedicate your life to the planet, but it will at least raise awareness and appreciation for what’s around you. These artists are doing important work to expand everyone’s perception about environmental damage while potentially inciting a little bit of hope. These are only a handful of creations promoting ecological potential and despair, but their work is never over until every artist looking outside can celebrate humanity’s positive progress.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.