Climate change data has its problems: It is often lofty and complicated, hard to digest, and even harder to conjure into feelings of urgency. But artists are stepping in to marry data with their crafts, bridging the gap between scientific information and human connection. Recognizing that people often act by heart rather than logic, these ten artists aim to help viewers understand the data while developing an emotional attachment that convinces them to do something about it—now.
(Iceberg Antarctica no.1,2017 (Courtesy artist, Zaria Forman)
Amid the dire reality of melting ice sheets and subsequent rising sea levels, Zaria Formanopts to spotlight the beauty: “A bombardment of terrifying news is paralyzing, but focusing on the positive is empowering.” Forman’s staggeringly realistic paintings capture the majesty and fragility of the icebergs. Look closer and you’ll see the finely painted ice fjords crackling, crumbling, and melting. Still, Forman’s message always leans toward hope and action. “I try to celebrate what is still here; to give viewers the sense that it is still possible to do something to protect this Earth that sustains us.”
Sean “Hula” Yoro
Growing up in Hawaii, Sean “Hula” Yoro was raised to respect nature. The surfer and self-taught artist creates murals usually involving portraits on hard-to-reach locales like ship docks and dams to illustrate the changing landscape. In some cases, he paints on natural surfaces like icebergs or forest trees, letting the figures rapidly melt or get washed away by natural forces to create a sense of urgency. “The idea of my art not lasting adds another depth to the message and feels more real,” says Yoro.
At 24, painter and environmental science student Jill Pelto is already establishing a new kind of art informed by scientific data and inspired by early 20th-century explorers like Edward Adrian Wilson. Pelto knows that her generation and those that follow are the ones inheriting the issues and that the research isn’t always simple to digest. “I also find that many people just don’t pay attention,” she says. Her illustrations depict the same kind of graphs you might find in a textbook (decline in glacier mass balance; ocean acidification; deforestation) overlaid with watercolor paintings of the affected natural wonders, bringing the research to life.