For these six artists, nature is both a catalyst and a muse

These artists are combining nature, art, and climate action

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Pam Longobardi
In her One World Ocean project, Pam Longobardi uses plastic recovered from around the globe.

Courtesy of Pam Longobardi

Pam Longobardi is an Atlanta-based professor, artist, and founder of the Drifters Project, which mobilizes cleaning efforts along coastlines around the world. She is known for her assemblages, abstract paintings, documentary photos, and large-scale installations made of discarded plastic collected from waterways and beaches. Each piece turns clunky, artificial objects into large-scale, organic artwork that documents the conflict between the environment and human consumption. Like other nature-focused artists, her art sees both the environment’s beauty and its proximity to peril. Here are five more artists doing the same: combining nature, art, and climate action.

  • As an artist in residence at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, K. Tauches spends her days surrounded by lush forest and burbling creeks. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that she draws much of her inspiration from the natural world and seeks to rouse an appreciation for nature in viewers through her signature mediums of ceramics, graphic design, and photography. In her Ceramic Photographs project, Tauches places photos of flowers, rock formations, and other natural scenes washed in faded blues, greens, and yellows on uneven squares of ceramic to represent the ever-changing state of nature.
  • Since beginning her career in Atlanta in 1976, Jo Peterson has built an extensive body of work seeking to reestablish the relationship between humans and nature. Her recent pieces, done primarily in charcoal, pastels, and acrylic glazes, feature up-close images of trees, forests, and flora. The spare branches and delicate texture of the leaves paired with black-and-white palettes create x-ray–like imagery meant to evoke feelings of nostalgia. She is represented by the Sandler Hudson Gallery.
  • Despite being based in Seattle, Dale Chihuly has breathed life into Atlanta’s environmental arts scene through his sculptures at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Chihuly created three blown glass sculptures that adorn the garden’s flourishing beds, including one in the Glade Garden titled Radiant Yellow Icicle Tower that was installed in December 2021. The tower is a vibrant yellow and stands over a reflecting pool that cuts through the woods. The iconic Parterre Fountain is made from swirling tendrils of deep blue glass resembling water jets, and the twisting, green Nepenthes Chandelier is modeled after Georgia’s pitcher plants.
  • Paula Reynaldi isn’t one for traditional art supplies. Instead, she often turns to materials such as balloons and Styrofoam cups when creating her nature-inspired sculptures and installations. One of her most prominent exhibitions, Taping Nature, consisted of a series of masking-tape sculptures modeled after fungi, coral, and honeycomb, and inspired by the walking trails behind her home in Athens. Despite the unnatural materials, the sculptures’ hyperrealistic appearances make them feel as alive as the organisms they were based on.
  • Jeremy Bolen’s experimental art collided with the climate crisis in his exhibit Because the Sky Will Be Filled with Sulfur. The display, which spent the summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art, featured photos, videos, and sculptures containing machinery used in solar radiation management, a proposed solution to climate change. The Atlanta-based artist and Georgia State University professor’s work is currently being shown at Public Works in Chicago. *Disclosure: Bolen is the partner of Atlanta’s visuals director, Martha Williams.

This article appears in our September 2022 issue.

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