Erb Perspective Blog
Art that Tells the Story of Our Changing Climate
November 14, 2016
By Alisa Singer
The facts about climate change are compelling. And the charts, graphs and maps that illustrate these facts are especially persuasive – trajectories point dramatically to reflect the inevitable correlation between temperature rise, carbon emissions, rising ocean levels, and Arctic ice melt. The many key indicators of climate change tell an alarming story. But is the message getting through?
When I first started to wonder why more people weren’t paying attention to the specific facts about climate change, I realized that some might be put off, confused, or intimidated by graphic depictions of data and statistics. But I guessed that it might be possible that those who would shun a presentation of charts and graphs might, nonetheless, be happy to look at bright, colorful art. It occurred to me that art could become the vehicle for “delivering” the critical facts about our changing world.
To further this concept, I set out to develop an approach to marry art to science by using as the actual blueprint for each of the digital paintings in my series, “The Art of Climate Change”, as charts, graphs, words, numbers or symbols representative of key facts about climate change.
As the series evolved, I began to add paintings based on sketches – which instead of drawn lines, I used a word, number or symbol of specific significance to climate science. For example, climate scientists have warned us not to exceed 2 degrees Celsius and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit so I created one sketch that uses the two numbers as its sole design.
For exhibitions the digital paintings are typically printed on large metal sheets. They are glossy and colorful, and grab the viewer’s attention. Each painting is displayed with a plaque depicting the underlying climate data source, and explaining its significance. Once the viewers realize they are not looking at mere abstract images they are intrigued. Moving back and forth from art to graph, and from one piece to the next, viewers try to decipher how the data is reflected in the art. As a result of this process, the viewer becomes more engaged in both the art and the underlying science.
There are now over 45 paintings in the series, ‘The Art of Climate Change”, each derived from a different fact about climate science. The goal is for each viewer to leave an exhibit with a number of specific facts (sound bytes, if you will). Some of these facts may be recalled, and many will be forgotten, but overall the feeling of the scope and urgency of the issue should be firmly instilled.
Our experience with Environmental Graphiti so far has proven the impactful synergies derived from combining art and science – Art can serve as an inviting point of entry to make scientific information more accessible and comprehensible. Art derived from science is inherently unique and meaningful, which makes it more engaging and satisfying. And art combined with science can effectively serve as a powerful tool to tell the story about climate change, a story that needs to be told by as many people, in as many ways, as possible.
In furtherance of Environmental Graphiti’s mission to exhibit the art widely to enhance public understanding of the science of climate change, it provides art to universities, colleges, non-profits and governmental institutions at cost. All profits from other sales of the art are used to fund this mission.
To learn more about Environmental Graphiti, and see more of the art, please visit http://www.environmentalgraphiti.org
Alisa Singer is a self-taught artist who has, since her retirement from the practice of corporate law, devoted herself to creating art to further causes she believes are important. Alisa was attracted by the inherently aesthetic design elements of scientific charts and graphs, and intrigued by the idea of using art to give them dramatic effect. She conceived the Environmental Graphiti project in 2014 and created the series The Art of Climate Change, with abstract images illustrating the science behind the critical changes impacting our planet.
Recently she partnered with The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind to create a unique line of Braille greeting cards featuring contemporary art designs based on the pattern of the card’s Braille message.
Alisa’s work (other than Environmental Graphiti) has been exhibited mainly in the Midwest, but also in New York and Washington, D.C.. For exhibitions of Environmental Graphiti art see Collaborations.