Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Earth Day is a yearly anniversary that brings awareness to environmental concerns. The first Earth day was on April 22, 1970. The fight for a clean environment was supported by people in all walks of American life and brought about the establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, The National Environmental Education Act , The Occupational Safety and Health Act, The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and The Endangered Species Act and that alone was in the first two years! Earth Day continues to shine a light on dangerous practices and helps to make global changes for the sake of our planet.
Art is one of the best and most wonderful ways to educate and through art we can spread awareness about important issues. My students have traditionally created works of art with the reuse, repurpose, recycle motif, but this year I’d like to share with you another way to celebrate Earth with art projects that align with an art movement called Land Art. Land art is an art movement that got its start in the 1970’s right along with Earth Day. Coincidence? I think not! Land art is the practice of creating works of art that exist outdoors, using natural materials, often found at the location where the art is created. There are some notable exceptions like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Surrounded Islands”. This work of art used 6.5 million square feet of pink fabric which covered the surface of the water around 11 islands in Florida’s Biscayne Bay. The pink fabric was definitely not a natural object found at the location but the installment did have something in common with all land art and that was it’s temporary nature. Though some examples have had a long lasting quality, like Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” which is a 1, 500 foot long coil comprised of rocks and earth located in Utah’s great salt lake, or Michael Heizer’s “Double Negative”, which is essentially two 30 foot wide trenches dug into Nevada’s Mormon Mesa. None the less these pieces have changed in accordance with nature from their original state. Andy Goldsworthy is a notable land artist who is creating natural works of art that are more temporary than his predecessors, often using leaves to compose images that resemble paintings and sculptures from sticks that frame entrances that appear to lead to other worlds.
The projects I’d like to share with you this week are not as ambitious as moving mountains or redirecting the flow of water but they do rely on the use of natural materials that you can find in your own back yard or at your local park. The first activity is rock painting and you are probably quite familiar with it already as it has become rather popular in recent years, which is no surprise because rock painting is a lot of fun! You can find rocks or you can buy them from a garden center. I do recommend that you prime your rock first using a primer or even just painting a white base coat to your rock before you begin painting your design, that is of course, unless you are going for the more natural look. Another fun project involves collecting bits of nature from your garden like flowers, grass, berries, ferns, pebbles, bark, clovers, and sticks. These items can be arranged in different ways to create different kinds of land art. Think of it like drawing with shapes only the shapes are three dimensional objects that you can rearrange with ease until you have an image you love! Some ideas include spelling out your name or composing a make believe insect. If you have yarn or string you can try making a natural kind of paint brush or you might even consider it to be more like a fairy wand. To make this you need a stick for the handle and whatever natural bits of material you would like to use for the bristles of your brush or for the topper of your fairy wand, and you simply tie them onto the tip of the stick with some yarn. You could also make a mobile by tying bits of nature along a string and then fastening several of these strings to a stick which you can then hang. If you have an empty egg carton you can cut it apart and use the egg inserts to make a magical bird's nest by filing it with things from nature in the way that a bird might. If you don’t have an empty egg carton that you can cut apart you might consider using a coffee filter or a cupcake wrapper as the base of your nest or you could even use dough or clay to shape the nest before filling it. Whichever projects you choose to make, don’t forget to take pictures, because like all land art, it will be temporary!