Artists Making A Positive Impact on the Environment

Artist Chris Jordan giving a speech at the UN
Photo credit Jamie McCarthy

Many artists use nature in their works to not only celebrate the planet’s beauty, but also to highlight the impact humans have on Earth.

Through painting, sculpture, photography and various forms of mixed media, environmental artists are creating thought-provoking pieces which address everything from climate change and pollution to consumerism and biodiversity.

Here are six artists using their talents to raise awareness and promote positive change.


The German artist started as a painter before using natural objects to create installations which transform into “dreamlike realms.” One of his most famous works is the cover design for Peter Gabriel’s OVO album in which Udo collected tree trunks to form a nest-like structure and placed a child in its center.

“By installing plantings or by integrating them into more complex installations, the work is literally implanted into nature,” the 82-year-old said in a statement. “As a part of nature, the work lives and passes away in the rhythm of the seasons.”

Agnes Denes

Considered a pioneer of environmental art, Denes’ 1968 Rice/Tree/Burial performance piece, in which she planted rice seeds, chained trees together & buried a time capsule, is considered to be “ the first large scale site-specific piece anywhere with ecological concerns."

But it was her 1982 Wheatfield – A Confrontation - that featured 2 acres of wheat planted in a landfill across from the World Trade Center in NYC  - that is considered her masterpiece.

“It was a triumphant moment in time, a confrontation of human greed, mismanagement and complaisance that have since remained the same or worsened,” Denes said of her artistic achievement.

The Canadian photographer started out as an engineer but has since become known for his hyper-realist style. The 32-year-old has now made conservation and social impact projects his priority. One of his most recent pieces involved collecting 168K straws from the streets of Vietnam to highlight plastic pollution in the oceans.

Andy Goldsworthy

The British artist is known for his site-specific sculptures made from natural materials (rocks, ice, leaves, rocks) and then documents how they change with the passage of time. “It’s not about art. It’s just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last,” the 62-year-old said.

Richard Shilling

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy, Shilling also makes installations from natural materials in the environment, which  He then photographs using only ambient light and no Photoshop enhancements. His work has been described as “exploring themes of existence, transience through an ever-deepening relationship with nature.”

Chris Jordan

The Seattle artist/filmmaker takes photographs made from garbage and other discarded items like computers and phones to showcase the negative impact American consumerist culture has on the environment.  

His most recent work is a short film entitled ALBATROSS, which deals with the effects of pollution on the seabirds.

“The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me it’s consistent feature is a staggering complexity,” Jordan said.