Using Art to Save the World

climate-change-artClimate change is threatening planet Earth and an alarming rate every single year. With harsher climate and more unpredictable weather patterns, it is clear that something is going on with the weather cycles on our planet, but what does this have to do with art? Or even if it were related to art, what could artists even do about it? Well, I think that climate change is a perfect example of how the arts can influence and win over popular opinion around a topic and change the nature of the debate—and a few artists are out to do just that.

Recently an artist by that name of Paula Winokur was on a trip to Alaska where she was viewing glaciers, presumably getting inspiration for her next masterpiece. As she was on the boat viewing this mammoth piece of frozen water, the entire front section of it broke off, falling to the surface with a loud shattering noise that reverberated for miles. This experienced made her realize that something needs to be done to preserve these glaciers that are essential habitats for hundreds of animal species, and she saw her art as a medium that she could raise awareness.

Now Paula creates porcelain forms that depict icebergs and glaciers falling around polar bears that are simply trying to live in their own habitat. The pieces are quite moving and you are able to get a sense of fear from looking at the polar bear as they look out at the world around them and quite literally are seeing it crumble beneath them, drifting slowly away.

This is a perfectly relevant and contemporary way that art can contribute to popular culture and mainstream opinion and thought. You see, art can contribute something to the debate that science cannot: emotions. Art is a visual, a stimulant, some that requires an interpretation by the individual that is specific to his or her own person and experience. Science is data, math, charts, and graphs. This is very linear for most people and creates incredible difficulties when trying to elicit emotional responses from people. This isn’t an attempt to “knock” science. Science described to us how the world is, not how it “ought” to be, and that is the fundamental difference. Art has the capability to tell us how the world ought to be by painting pictures (pardon the pun) of how we all would like to see the world.  Some people may call these people optimists. Others may call them artists. But either way, their effect is something that cannot be denied. Once artist begin to depict the emotion behind the science of climate change, we can expect a very different set of outcomes in popular opinion.

Hopefully Winokur takes more trips to Alaska to gain inspiration for future sculptures and pieces of art. It would be amazing for her next project to recreate a full scale glacier with a polar bear near or around the falling part. This would captivate people all over the world and unite the climate change community.

Urban Street Art

street-artOne of the most contemporary and popular forms of artistic expression in today’s culture is urban street art. Urban street art has dominated many inner cities art culture and has revived communities, allowing them to once again have hope, faith, and pride in the area that they call home. In this post, I want to discuss some of the ways that urban street art is contributing to modern society.

Urban street art can take many forms, but its most common manifestation is through the work of city murals and paintings. This can be on the side of an overpass, an abandoned building, a sidewalk, or even a street corner itself. These are also just a few examples. Urban street art is virtually limitless in the amount of forms that it can take.

But what is key in understanding the urban street art phenomenon is to understand what has made it so popular and successful and there are a few things that go into this.

First, during the 1980s and 1990s many highly urban communities did not see many rewards from the booming economy of that time and as a result lost some of their bearings. The areas became less stable and more crime ridden. Many people began to lose hope in their community and needed a rallying point that they could claim as their own: a unifying vision that represented their community.

In comes urban street art.

Many artists, being intimately aware of the problems facing these inner-city communities themselves, started going through these communities giving the population exactly what they were looking for: a reminder of what their town represents. These artists were able to acutely capture the sentiments of the community because for the most part they were an integral part of it. These were not academic artists in the ivory tower; they were local, independent artists looking to make a difference, and as these artists started painting murals on old buildings and street blocks, people were quite literally given the vision that they once had of their communities.

In this way, urban street art is an art medium that brings together people of all classes, races, sexes, and background. It is a unifying medium that seeks to bring people together for a common cause of uplifting a community from its ruins.

Of course, urban street art need not be something an impoverished city does. Many wealthy cities like Chicago prominently display works of urban art in their downtown district. This is a testament to the far-reaching arm of the art itself that it can bridge income and with that culture gaps as well as other ones. In fact, many cities celebrate urban art displays with downtown art fairs all throughout their city with anything from sculptures, to painting, drawing and printmaking.

Urban street art is definitely here to stay and we would say has made an incredibly positive impact on the communities that it has touched. What about your community? Have you seen any street art popping up? If not, you should consider doing some; it could be the spark that reignites your town.

Pop Art’s Influencing Effect

soup-canArt itself is a creative medium that penetrates culture, racial boundaries, gender inequalities, or anything else you can think of. Art is something that is beyond all of these things but can at the same time be used to communicate messages about these underlying social conditions that we may see around us in modern society. Today let’s look at some of the ways that pop art has influenced modern society.

Pop art started in the mid 1950s in England and a few years later in the United States. It was a unique departure from the traditional fine arts because it implements scenes, depictions, illustrations, etc. from popular culture, hence the name “pop art.” Most people see its rise as a response to the ideas of abstract expressionism that were popular during the 1950s.

Pop art oftentimes depicts irony and satire in its work to overlay the political or cultural landscape of a time period. This element of pop art has led much of it to make social and political commentary on the status quo in American and British life. One of the most famous pop artists is Andy Warhol who was famous for his Campbell’s soup paintings and Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box during the 1960s. Also during the 1960s, the antiwar movement made great use of pop art, illustrating the power of this particular genre.

The ironic nature of pop art can perhaps be attributed to many of the popular ironic and satirical news services that have now become so popular in modern society. For example, two of the leading news television shows in American and abroad are the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. These television shows draw heavily upon the satirical influences that pop art first sought to exploit.

Another great example of pop art influence could be the success of popular sites like the Onion that seek to use popular culture and play upon it with satirical news stories. This would be an example of the traditional art form of canvas switching mediums into the written word, again showing the far reaching effects of art in popular culture and the influence pop art has had on society.

Pop art continues to be a popular medium today although it is not as in vogue as it once was during the 1960s. The pop art movements really seems to coalesce around the rise of the hippies and its fading away coincided with theirs. The art movement of today is primarily focused around post-modern art, but the influence of pop art can still be seen throughout society. It just takes a trained eye to locate it.

If you are interested in seeing and reading more about pop art, there are a number of great pop art museums around the United States and Great Britain that not only have full tours, but also have many of the works available to see online. If you visit their websites, you should be able to find everything you need to visits and further your learning of this great medium.