Michelle Stitzlein sculpture

Earth-Smart Art
The art of living green takes its cues from a nature-inspired canvas.

Beth Campbell, October 2008, Volume 13, #8

St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles

For centuries, artists have looked to nature for inspiration and as subject matter for their work. Now, many artists are also looking for ways to help preserve the natural world and raise awareness about ecological issues. By creating art from reclaimed or recycled materials, or selecting natural and organic supplies, these artists infuse their work with an eco-conscious message that transcends the physical attributes of the piece. And by bringing these works of art into our homes, we help to spread the message of eco-awareness within our spaces and lifestyles, and beautify our surroundings at the same time.

Michelle Stitzlein, a Baltimore-based artist who creates stunning sculptures of moths and whimsical flowers from found objects such as piano keys, broken china, license plates and bottlecaps, says, “recycled art is flourishing…the wave of interest in green products and architecture has also created more interest in recycled art.” The materials of choice for local artist Mark Dotzler include hard drives, silicon wafers, antennas and electrical wiring. His sculptures not only make good use of everyday objects, they are thought-provoking reminders of the prevalence of electronics in our daily lives and our dependence on them.

Suzanne Perry, an artisan from Lawrence, Kansas, also works with materials that would otherwise be bound for the landfill. Perry creates small accent lamps that can be used as nightlights or to brighten a dark corner. “Working in the KU library system, I noticed how many plastic book covers were discarded each year,” Suzanne explains. Thinking about how the book covers might be reused, she came up with the idea for GlowBlocks lamps. “I developed a special process to apply the discarded plastic to glass blocks,” Suzanne explains. The resulting effect is like illuminated etched glass, with hand-applied decorative motifs and quotes individualizing each piece. The finished lamps are then mounted on bases made from recycled steel, ready for display on a bar or a bookshelf.

In addition to using reclaimed materials, artists are finding other ways to create eco-friendly art. Those who specialize in textiles may work only with organic yarns and fabrics, while those who create more traditional works on canvas may seek out non-toxic, natural art supplies. Gregory Patch, a North Carolina-based artist, worried about the toxic qualities of traditional oils, acrylics, encaustics, watercolors and gouache mediums. “Now I use natural beeswax from Germany, mixed with food-container-safe color pigments,” Patch says. The materials produce a stunning effect on canvas that is safe for both the environment and the artist – proof that earth-smart art is beautiful inspiration for us all.

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