All posts filed under: Art

Ekostories from the medium of art.

Greg Mort Stewardship Painting

The Art of Stewardship, by Greg Mort

I first came across Greg Mort’s artwork while writing a piece on Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot. The image immediately drew my eye: Two apples situated against a black backdrop, one golden and freshly unwrapped; the other painted as the Earth. Attached to the stem of the pole, a blank price tag. Stewardship, the piece was called. The image and title struck me.  It forced me to contemplate, not for the first or last time, what stewardship truly entails, what value I place on the well-being of the world that sustains all. It both broadened and deepened my innate desire to care, as art can sometimes do. With his work prominently displayed in museums, art galleries, and even the White House, I am honoured to have permission from Mort’s studio curator to feature and explore a few of my favourite works. As with other art-oriented Ekostories, I hope to let the visuals speak for themselves and allow you, the reader, the space and time to discover the stories they have to tell. So enjoy. …

Burtynsky's Manufactured Landscapes Orange River Plate 14

Manufactured Landscapes: A meditation on man-made spaces

I don’t recall where I first came across the work of Edward Burtynsky; it could have been at the library, the bookstore, or one of those coffee shops with actual coffee table books. All I remember was being drawn to the front cover image of his collection of photographs, to the intense fluorescent shock of orange lava snaking through charred lands: A beautiful and awesome volcanic landscape. Only when I read the title, half immersed in the river’s glow, did I realize something was amiss. Manufactured Landscapes. As I flipped through the book, the beauty that I saw and the awe that I held for the landscape fell away, replaced by a swell of alarm and disbelief. The river wasn’t lava, the setting wasn’t volcanic, and nature had nothing to do with the creation of this particular landscape. One of the most powerful things art can do is challenge us to examine the assumptions we hold about the world. Burtynsky’s photographic forays into industrial shadows pushed me to confront my own notions on beauty and ugliness, the value …

A Boy and His Plants: The Curious Garden

There’s an art to writing for kids. Good children’s books aren’t simply dumbed down stories, written with smaller words and fitted with happy sappy endings. In reality, kids are quite discerning: Their faculties haven’t yet been dulled by the insecurities and neuroses accumulated during the process of growing up. They like what they like and are completely honest about it. It’s true that they happily consume works filled with tired clichés and moralistic messages, but lacking cynicism and regard for convention, they generally emerge none the worse for wear. The stories that stay with kids are ones that feel authentic and true, even if they can’t articulate why. These are stories that speak through the language of wonder, a native tongue we are all born knowing but can easily be forgotten through neglect and disuse. I think The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a great children’s book. Inspired by the revitalization of the Highline railway on the west side of Manhattan, Brown fuses charming visuals with a narrative that is full of discovery and hope. …

Shan Shui Chinese Industrial Pollution

Past Meets Present: Shan Shui Environmental Art

Literally translated as “mountain water”, Shan Shui is a specific style of Chinese landscape art that rose to prominence in the 5th century during the Liu Song Dynasty (wikipedia). In the depiction of pristine rivers, ethereal mists, and hallowed mountains, the artist’s ultimate goal is to capture the ch’i, or vital breath, of the world around them. This ch’i must be caught even at the expense of realism, for if the artist misses it, they have lost the very essence of the landscape. In this way, Shan Shui paintings are only expressions of art, but also provide insight into how the artist, influenced by culture and society, views the natural world. I recently came across the work of a modern artist who sought to introduce modern human presence and impact into Shan Shui paintings. Commissioned by the China Environmental Protection Foundation, Yong Liang Yang utilizes the traditional art style in ads to promote awareness of major environmental problems. The paintings and the associated video highlight the effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization within a Chinese …

Belonging and Window Wordle

Picture Poems: Window and Belonging

As I noted in The Changing Countryside, art can be a powerful platform for conveying environmental messages and raising ecological literacy. Most of us have been touched by a particularly poignant painting, a soulful song, an intricate sculpture. In instances where the written word seems insufficient to describe the essence of an idea or a concept, art can bypass our rational centers to evoke resonance and convey meaning. Instead of thinking, we first feel it deep in our core, in our soul. I felt the message when I first flipped through Belonging, a wordless picture book by Jeannie Baker. An artist and an author, Baker specializes in the creation of intricate shallow-relief multimedia collages. Primarily used as illustrations in her books, the collages have also been part of public art collections displayed in London, New York, and Australia. Each wordless double-page spread in Belonging is an astonishing depiction of a setting through time; each panel is packed with details and textures rich and subtle, providing a visual feast for the eyes and an experience for …