Balance: Art and Nature

Environmental art is a catch phrase that includes land art, earth-sensitive art and artists working with natural materials. Land art is a phenomenon of the ’60s and ’70s, with artists like Robert Smithson who made his Spiral Jetty in Great Salt Lake, Utah, one of those grandiose environmentally insensitive works that transformed the landscape.

Earth-sensitive art is smaller in scale, integrating an assemblage or sculpture in a natural setting, and there is art made with natural materials, which is usually exposed indoors.

~~ John Grande

Art and NatureArt critic John Grande writes about environmental art in his book, Balance: Art and Nature

Believing that artistic expression can and does play an important role in changing the way we perceive our relation to the world we live in, art critic John Grande takes an in-depth look at the work of some very unusual environmental artists in the United States, Canada, and -Europe.

Grande contends that the egocentricity of modern western society and its infatuation with technology and consumerism have increasingly separated us from the natural world. That separation has an impact on the way our art is conceived, formed, marketed and even displayed. Grande proposes that art return to being more “ecocentric,” reminding us that we are derivative and essentially dependent on natural processes. “In developing a nature-specific dialogue that is interactive, rooted in actual experience in a given place and time, and giving these elements an equal voice in the creative process,” he writes, “we are ultimately respecting our integral connectedness to the environment.” Holding such a vision, we will come to see that “nature is the art of which we are a part.”

John GrandeTo develop a dialogue more in touch with nature, Grande argues that artists should favour their specific culture and the diversity of the ecological communities in which they live rather than the homogenizing pressures of internationalism. He asserts that contemporary artists’ preoccupation with international “market recognition,” often reinforced by museums and funders, promotes a “product standardization” that takes precedence over any desire to represent one’s own culture and bioregion. In such a horizontal milieu, artists and their works consequently become easily interchangeable. The attendant appropriation of Third World, tribal and extranational art styles not only mirrors acts of economic expropriation but also often ensures the commercial success of the collusive artists. Such appropriation barely pauses to appreciate the source culture’s context and meaning.

As an alternative, Grande proposes that we celebrate the cultural diversity naturally intrinsic to each ecological community or bioregion. Such a preference would nourish the artistic expression of the cultural symbolism and spiritual values unique to that region. It would enhance an intuitive dialogue with nature in the creation of art, encouraging a healthier relationship with the local environment.

John Grande website

I think, a lot of art has as much to do with fashion and the look of things as it has to do with a kind of search for breakthroughs or a higher meaning. In a way we almost have an over-production situation where art is fine and society is in bad shape. It is one of my main concerns right now, The programs are working. Artists are producing. But the actual society is breaking down in many ways as a collectivity and becoming sort of digitalized. We have become digitalized producers and consumers.

Nature is the house that supports us all. We sometimes forget that. The same thing can be said for the world of art. What really nourishes art, more than ideas, is the physical world, and it is the main sustaining feature of any kind of aesthetic, even so-called immaterial ones.

Interview with Mike MacDonald

Interview with John Grande at Green Museum

Earth Art Exhibit at Royal Botanical Gardens

EcoArt Network

Tiger Swallowtail

Art critic, writer, lecturer and interviewer, John Grande’s reviews and feature articles have been published extensively in Artforum, Vice Versa, Sculpture, Art Papers, British Journal of Photo-graphy, Espace Sculpture, Public Art Review, Vie des Arts, Art On Paper, Circa & Canadian Forum. He is also the author of Balance: Art and Nature (a newly expanded edition by Black Rose Books in, 2004), Intertwining: Landscape, Technology, Issues, Artists (Black Rose Books, 1998), Jouer avec le feu: Armand Vaillancourt: Sculpteur engagé (Lanctot, 2001), and his most recent book, Dialogues in Diversity: Marginal to Mainstream published in Italy in 2007 by Pari Publishing.

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