COZUMEL, Mexico—Ms. Yolanda Gutiérrez is part of a developing group of environmental artists, seeking to transform their worlds through art.
Such artists are found globally, finding and working to change environmental issues they are not pleased with surrounding wildlife habitat, nature, and urban life.
But they also compliment the world they live in, appreciating its beauty and using their talents to praise it.
The artists use what is around them to send messages to viewers and listeners. For example, Ms. Gutiérrez uses shells and organic materials she finds on the sites she will work.
Though, she also works in her studio, usually using natural materials to reveal themes and myths about Cozumel’s coast.
One of Ms. Gutiérrez’s major projects, from 1995, was inspired by a wildlife reservation on the island of Cozumel. After two hurricanes had hit the area, she worked with biologists from the Mexican Ministry of the Interior to create nests for birds that had fled the island because they lost their homes.
Ms. Gutiérrez’s nest project, called “Santuario” (“Sanctuary” in Spanish), brought the birds back to the area.
Although Ms. Gutiérrez explores issues on her home island, she also depicts issues regarding the larger natural world.
Another of her famous works, called “Umbral” (“Threshold” in Spanish), is an installation of cattle jawbones meant to look like birds in flight.
“A new cycle of life emerges from the death of another,” Ms. Gutiérrez was quoted in Greenmuseum.org. “Death is not the end, but a transition from one life to the next.”
Art capturing transition
South Korean nature artist Mr. Hee-joon Kang has been doing nature art since the 1980s, creating art with his own body as he interacts with the nature around him.
For example, he will hide in tall grass, drag things across beaches to leave marks in the sand, or leave brushes outside so the wind can create its own drawings.
“I am strongly interested in small delicate objects from nature which are not recognized by people normally,” he was quoted on Greenmuseum.org. “I find a divine poetry in it.”
Mr. Kang does not create as much as he assists nature in creating. His work suggests that everyone impacts nature in everything they do.
Specific works of his, like “Drawing” or “Autumn” or “Winter,” dissolve the lines between the artist and the passing seasons, as he uses paper, clusters of thorns, and soil smeared over stumps to reveal the beauty he sees in nature that many people take for granted.
Mr. Kang classifies his artwork into three different concepts. The first uses natural materials, like wood and grass, to draw lines “because each natural material has its unique line,” he said.
In his second concept, he mixes different soils with water and dries them to reveal natural cracks. The third concept involves drawing the shapes and shadows of detailed and delicate natural objects.
“Substances of nature become the motive of my work,” he said.
Lack of natural substance as motivation
The late rapper and actor, Mr. Tupac Shakur, commonly known as 2 Pac, critiqued the urban environment around him, as well as the United States as a whole, in much of his music.
In the song, “Panther Power,” from his posthumously released 2003 album Resurrection, he called the American Dream a scheme because it promised freedom, education, and equality, but gave him and his ancestors nothing but slavery.
“The American Dream was an American nightmare,” he rapped. “You kept my people [African Americans] down and refuse to fight fair.”
2 Pac added that the U.S. government used ignorance and drugs to keep African Americans from achieving success.
He continued, rapping that his mother never let him forget facts surrounding his ancestral history in the United States, stripped from the culture, the environment of Africa.
“Some time has passed, seem you all forget,” he rapped, reminding his listeners, especially his African American listeners, not to get too comfortable in their U.S. environment. “There ain’t no liberty to you and me, we all ain’t free yet.”
He ultimately called for a change in the environment called the U.S. government, and urged Black people to remember their beauty and reflect the environment in Africa they came from.
Thought to consider
How can your community artistically transform its surrounding environment?