Arts and crafts are irreplaceable activities that stimulate our creativity and help our minds to relax. The process of creation is without doubt very beneficial; however, it sometimes creates an excessive amount of unnecessary waste. Just think about the threat posed by glitter and all the plastic packaging used for art equipment! If you are concerned about environmental issues and want to experience the pure enjoyment of crafting without guilt, you might find inspiration in sustainable art.
When it comes to the origins of today’s ecological crisis, many environmentalists blame the separation of the human and non-human world embedded in Western culture. According to deep ecologist Fritjof Capra, the dualism of natural/cultural has its roots in the teaching of René Descartes. In the 17th century, Western culture built a border between the intellect and the material world. Whilst humans and their ability of rational thinking were labeled as “civilized”, animals and the rest of the natural world were generally considered as emotional, sensuous, primitive and irrational.
Flickr | Ruud van Koningsbrugge
Current environmental efforts attempt to re-connect the natural and cultural spheres and overcome this artificially created border. As Capra says, the thinking based on Descartes is old-fashioned and unsustainable as it’s associated with a domination and exploitation of the natural world.
Sustainable art can be one way of pursuing this goal. It aims to incorporate all three pillars of sustainability - people, planet, profit – in works. Sustainable artists must think about the environmental dimension and wider impact of their creations. They should engage with social responsibility and ecological awareness in their pieces of art.
Flickr | ashley l
These principles are not limiting. What’s more; they can be a source of inspiration. Sustainable artists are forced to search for unusual materials and adopt innovative practices. They are also encouraged to surpass an anthropocentric approach and connect with the non-human world. Sacha Kagan in his book Art and Sustainability says that the aesthetics of sustainability requires a sensibility to complexity, holistic harmonies and transdisciplinarity. It can be characterized as a “responsiveness to the meta-pattern uniting the living world”, in contrast to the modern conception of aesthetics as “detached contemplation”. (p. 464)
Sustainability was also one of the principles highlighted by the XIth Florence Biennale in 2017. According to curator Melanie Zefferinom, the aim of the bienalle is to contribute to “envision a future in which creativity and sustainability are inspiring principles of an artistic and cultural ‘ecosystem’ within a world that is respectful of nature and life forms on Earth.”
If the idea of sustainable art is appealing to you, you might find inspiration in this list of artists that we’ve compiled. Their pieces of art caught our attention as they manifest the beauty of using unusual sustainable materials.
Kateřina Haderková – chandeliers from dried flowers
Julian Lechner – espresso cups from used coffee grounds
Jane Perkins – reproductions of famous paintings from buttons and beads
Patrick Bremer – incredible “paintings” from newspaper strips
Vincent Francisco Navarro – paint made from used coffee grounds
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