Art for Sustainability

Written by Melia Ortiz, ESLLC 2016-2017

Art can be a great way to spread awareness of the impacts and importance of the choices we make on the environment. Recently, the DU Vicki Myhren Gallery in the Shwayder Art Building hosted Storm Warning, a gallery exhibit that sought to address current environmental issues and climate change. Many great works of art where featured in this exhibit, and I hope you had the opportunity to visit. Many artists have approached pressing issues of sustainability in a wide variety of ways such as using waste as a medium for their piece or photographing environmental degradation. Here are a few artists that use their artwork as a tool to promote sustainability. This list is very limited. There are countless more artists who are creating amazing environmental artwork, these are just a few that I particularly enjoy.

Chris Jordan

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Chris Jordan is an artist and photographer based out of Seattle, Washington. Jordan visited Midway Island, home to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, to photograph the harmful effects of pollution and waste on the bird population. Many of his images show the plastic waste overflowing from the birds’ stomachs because these birds were unable to digest the waste they accidentally swallowed while trying to eat fish. These photographs directly depict harmful human impact on the ecosystem and seek to alarm the veiwer. The piece pictured above was featured in the Storm Warning exhibit and on the exhibit’s flyer. Visit Jordan’s website

​Aurora Robson

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Aurora Robson was born in Toronto, grew up in Maui, Hawaii, and now lives and works in New York City. Her work is known for its use of plastics and other materials that she diverted from the waste stream. Robson recolors many of the plastics using polyacrylic mixed with a tint. This is water based and nontoxic, so it is an environmentally conscious choice. She seeks to transform the negative image of trash into something playful and joyous. The larger than life size of her pieces serves as a reminder to the viewer how much trash we generate. For more information visit her website

Jeff Hong

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Jeff Hong is an animation artist based out of New York. His Unhappily Ever After Project shows that our current actions will not result in a fairytale happy ending by featuring Disney characters placed in photographs the highlight issues of today’s society. His work includes images such as Mulan wearing a mask to protect against pollution, Winnie the Pooh in a deforested area, and Elsa crying on a melted iceberg. See more of his work at

Andy Goldsworthy

Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 11.12.19 AMAndy Goldsworthy is a British artist who is known for his impermanent artwork. His artwork used only natural materials such as ice, stones, and leaves. He uses these materials to create line and forms that often reflect nature in ways such as the movement of a river. The work then melts, is destroyed by the tide, or slowly falls apart. His work is made permanent through photographs and video, the actual sculpture will always disappear into nature. Goldsworthy’s art reflects nature’s beauty and a beautiful balance between the artist and nature that can be achieved when the artist works alongside the natural processes. More of his work can be found on his website:


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