Art and the environment go together like peanut butter and jelly. Ok, maybe not as nostalgic as PB&J, but when the two disciplines utilize each other’s strengths, the result has an immense, positive impact. Throughout history, art has taken inspiration and cues from nature resulting in ancient hieroglyphics depicting wildlife and famous works such as Monet’s poppies. In more recent times art is used as a catalyst for change. In 2005, collaboration between the Natural World Museum and United Nations Environment Program created the Art for the Environment initiative to “utilize the universal language of art as a catalyst to unite people in action and thought, and to empower individuals, communities and leaders to focus on environmental values across social, economic and political realms.”
Mixing art and the environment doesn’t have to be as planned as a United Nations initiative. This year at the MET Gala, one of the largest fashion events of the year, one star initiated an environmental conversation through her dress. Emma Watson brought the environment with her when she wore a dress made from recycled plastic bottles. A collaboration by Calvin Klein and Eco Age, the dress added depth to the proverbial red carpet question, “What are you wearing?”
Right here in our own backyards, Dallas is combining art and the environment and in one case even the city got involved. This spring, the City of Dallas Sanitation Services Department conducted the “Art for Dumpsters” project, a contest for local artists to showcase their artwork, while at the same time sprucing up and revitalizing the mundane recycle dumpsters. The top five colorful and inventive dumpsters were on display at the recent Deep Ellum Arts Festival and at Earth Day Texas. Now, the five painted recycle dumpsters are scattered around town joining the more than 140 recycle drop-off locations. If you live in an apartment complex or don’t have recycling at your office currently, go to dallascityhall.com/departments/sanitation to find your closest drop-off location or visit the winning artwork recycle dumpster done by Steve Hunter across from the Deep Ellum dog park.
Several artists around town utilize nature in their artwork, but no one is reaching and pushing the limits of the collaboration like Jeremy McKane. In his recent installation, “Found” at Level Gallery on Logan Street, McKane uses found pieces of trash from some of the most secluded beaches in the world as centerpieces in his work. The project has recently wrapped up at Level, but his next installation of “Lucid” at One Arts Plaza in downtown Dallas later this year is a must see. “Lucid” is a mind-controlled art installation with a mission to remove marine debris. McKane has pushed himself to create an interactive art project in which the viewer must first get into a guided meditative state (thinking about one thing), measured with a portable EEG, (electroencephalogram) device, and then watch the underwater photography projection take place. The powerful visuals are created to bring the ocean to you.
McKane was moved to create art with a purpose after conducting underwater photography at beautiful beaches around the world and encountering something he didn’t account for in his photos, plastic. “I found plastic everywhere … I picked up some of the sand — it was plastic that was beat down to microscopic levels,” McKane said. He decided somebody should do something about this, and why not him. As a landlocked Dallasite, he realized we are all connected to the ocean. “Whether you live on the coast or whether you live in Dallas in mainland America, your actions are affecting what goes in the ocean.” McKane’s work is a powerful step in connecting the emotional aspect of art to making environmental change happen. Visit jeremymckanegallery.com for more information.
The connection between art and the environment sparks a new path for inspiring people to make change in their everyday lives by connecting to emotions. Our city is full of local and worldwide initiatives to increase environmental awareness and ignite change — all you have to do is set out with an open mind and explore!
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.