What Is Environmental Art?

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Environmental art utilizes the very surface of Earth as a blank canvas, which forces people to look at the planet in different ways, to see it for its natural beauty. See examples of environmentalism in the art world with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Modern Art History
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Doctor Betty Brown, and I want to talk to you right now about environmental art. Among the most astonishing artworks of the twentieth century were environmental, or earthwork, arts...art pieces. For example, Christo, who more recently has been working with his partner, Jeanne-Claude, Christo is well-known. One might even say notorious for using the very surface of the planet as his palette. Here in California, the county line between Sonoma and Morin County, he erected a fifteen foot, white, nylon, kind of parachute material fence that ran in miles, from the ocean all the way across the border of the county line. Now, as you'd imagine, what it took to get permission to do this, to say nothing of the fact that he got all the people who lived along the county line to give personal permission to do that, and he got them all to participate. So here are all these cow farmers, these dairymen, helping an artist create a fifteen foot, white nylon fence. A drawing across the surface of the earth that was up for a couple of weeks and then taken down, and these dairy farmers not only allowed it to happen, they participated and they began to understand that it was an artwork. It's a beautiful artwork. It shimmered and flowed, it's called 'Running Fence.' These are environmental because they force us to look at our planet in a different way. They force us to stop for a moment. Quit taking it for granted, and see it's natural beauty. To see what we do when we cut a line across the earth and say "This is that county, and it has certain legislative designations, and this is this county with different governmental policies." To force us to think about what the earth is, how we treat the earth, and who we are on the earth.


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