Environmental Art: A Personal Definition

By Barbara Roux

Environmental Art is a contemporary art form that is inspired and informed by nature and reflects a need to interpret, engage and protect natural habitats. The knowledge and strength I have gained from my direct contact with natural landscapes has led me to respect wilderness ecosystems. My art is a translation of my mission to understand and protect wild things.

The dialogue I create between a viewer/reader and nature in my work uses traditional forms as well as elements presented directly from nature. My projects are often installations created with diverse components that reflect my interpretation of a natural history event. These works may be confined to a gallery wall and floor or at an outdoor site that is specific to their content. In a subtle way I engage nature to create a layering of meanings, visual and metaphorical.

Openly engaging nature in my work creates a partnership with nature I find beneficial. This means using natural materials from a site without destroying their habitat or its smaller niche.  The harvest of flowers, leaves or twigs by pruning will aid in the health of a plant. I do not appreciate the Earth Work art projects of the 1960’s that ravaged and gouged the land. To me these works showed a desire to dominate not magnify nature’s role in our lives.  One can work with natural cycles and rhythms and create projects that resonate with our own lives. Tides, moon phases, decay and growth are strong themes. When I create with natural materials like flowers the work takes on an ephemeral, fragile and transient quality that life has. When I use cobblestones from a beach, my work shows the strength of elements and the force of water.

Developing a method of inspection, research and discovery of natural ecosystems helps me to create art that invites mystery, wonder and appreciation. Look, listen, smell and touch. Be patient. Learning directly from nature is inspiring. Reaching across disciplines adds a valued layer to one’s process. Science and literature are inspirations for my conceptual and narrative content. It is important not to limit one’s vision or audience. Environmental Art can be a bird made of moss created for a person to discover by accident along a park trail. It can also be a project using text, photos, sound and aromatic seedlings placed under heat lamps installed in a university gallery for a large audience.  For me, Environmental Art can be created by one person or many of different ages working together. The goal is to celebrate our natural resources.

Barbara Roux 2009