It can be beautiful, strange, intriguing, riveting, and emotionally moving – or a combination thereof. And sometimes contemporary art is the perfect medium for spreading awareness about the environmentally and socially conscious messages the masses need to hear.
Below we’ve chosen four artists to feature who have dedicated their life’s work to raising awareness for social and environmental issues. From illustration to photography to sculpture to fashion, every artist cares passionately about his or her issue, but each method is uniquely their own.
Imagine an illustrated Ariel, covered in oil as she crawls forth from a photograph of the ocean slick with pollutants and petroleum and then you can begin to understand Jeff Hong, the man behind the Unhappily Ever After project who takes iconic Disney princesses and characters and implants them into very real, very modern day situations that are more like realistic struggles than fairytale fantasy.
Plastic surgery, global warming, drug addiction, animal overpopulation and testing, homelessness, and poverty are just a few of the sensitive subjects this artist captures by superimposing illustrated images of Disney characters into the scene of a real photograph. Self-described as a “big Disney fan,” the animation storyboard artist originally from Los Angeles is currently residing in New York City. He has worked as an animation artist on the films “Hercules”, “Mulan”, “Tarzan”, and “The Emperor’s New Groove.”
Much like her name implies, Marina DeBris (debris) uses washed up trash to create her works of contemporary art. After moving to Venice Beach, California from Bondi Beach, Australia, DeBris was appalled by the condition of the local beaches. Every day that she went for a run on the beach was another day that she found herself also collecting garbage in an effort to help the growing trash problem. DeBris quickly realized that this was barely making a dent in the effort to solve the issues and was then inspired to make objects using what she had been collecting.
Some of her works include 2D “posters” and “postcards” that use photographic images of several highly polluted strips of California beaches, and goes so far as to inject a bit of sarcasm and humor into these pieces, making mock advertorials advertising all of the individual found items, like sunglasses, cameras, and paintbrushes, as being “for sale.” DeBris has also created numerous 3D sculptural works from found garbage and several pieces of “trashion” (trash + fashion).
Aviva Rahmani is an ecological artist who currently works with scientists to restore degraded environments, but is heavily influenced by her early life, as well. She was an activist performer in the sixties and had interests in feminist art and city planning from a young age. Rahmani also claims that “dreams, intuitive and ritualized strategies” are a part of her modus operandi. According to her website, the talented multimedia artist’s “presentational means have ranged from found sound mixed with bel canto singing, virtual and digital technologies, to painted murals of geomorphic relationships.”
This artist has even developed her own theory that is the grounds for her scientific collaborative works. DeBris refers to it as “Trigger Point” which she describes as meaning the application of “traditional aesthetic tools for the analysis of small, carefully chosen areas of degraded coastal landscape to leverage large landscape healing.” Her work ranges from a beautiful moment captured in time to an awareness inducing photograph of a landscape in need of repair.
Probably my personal favorite, Aurora Robson is a multi-media artist who is best known for her work intercepting the waste stream, with her practice focusing on eliminating the negative and paving a new way for more positive idealisms. Not only are her sculptures and artworks stunning, but she has also worked to found Project Vortex, which is an international collective of artists, designers, and architects who also work with plastic debris.
“Dedicated to intercepting the waste stream,” Robson has honed her craft beautifully and has created colorful and lively sculptures, larger than life installation, junk mail collages, and abstract oil paintings. To put it into perspective, Robson created one on piece titled The Great Indoors for the Rice Gallery in Houston Texas that looks like an ethereal enchanted forest comprise of approximately 15,000 PET bottles cleaned up from the streets of New York.
It’s refreshing to know that contemporary art can be both beautiful and socially and environmentally conscious, because sometimes it takes a unique approach to spread awareness.
Do you have a favorite artist from this list? Have you ever been inspired to dabble in recycled art of your own? Let us know your thoughts on the EcoSalon Facebook page!
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Image of Paint and Brush via Shutterstock