Getting people to grasp the dangers posed by climate change has proved a challenge for scientists. Now, artists are taking a shot at it. A new exhibit highlights national and local artists whose work aims to show that climate change is an emergency. “Imagine Climate” is a collaboration between Anderson Ranch Arts Center and local environmental group CORE.
Lauren Peterson has hand-sewn trash, like plastic bubble wrap and upholstery fringe, into a giant colorful blanket that hangs from a studio wall at Anderson Ranch.
The title of the piece, “Fringely Benefitting Fried Eggs,” is a play on recent headlines about one consequence of climate change -- global warming.
“There were a lot of news stories about what people in Australia are experiencing right now. They can literally go outside and fry an egg outside because it’s so hot there," she said.
Peterson is an exhibiting artist in “Imagine Climate,” and the studio coordinator at Anderson Ranch.
She says some people might wonder what art can really add to the conversation about climate change. But she thinks the marriage of art and science is a natural one.
“Artists and scientists think in similar ways sometimes because they are thinking about possibility and potential rather than sticking to, 'Ok, I know that this is the outcome that is going to happen,'” she said.
Both artists' and scientists' work involves making big concepts and ideas tangible.
"Numbers can be more abstract than art," Peterson laughed.
Mona Newton agrees. She’s the executive director of the Community Office For Resource Efficiency (CORE). The organization helps valley residents cut carbon emissions. She says some scientists are frustrated at how hard climate science has been for the public to understand.
“I think a lot of scientists realize that they have to go beyond that information and go into art or culture to communicate the information they need to communicate,” she said.
That’s why CORE is venturing into art in “Imagine Climate.” The organization is looking for a new way to show why the stakes are so high in the Roaring Fork Valley when it comes to climate change.
“It’s keeping the snow that we love, it’s keeping the water in the rivers and it’s also our economy,” said Newton.
“Imagine Climate” features work from artist and activist Justin Brice Guariglia. His piece “We Are The Asteroid II” is made up of highway signs, like those that flash warnings about a detour up ahead, or a closed road. But Guariglia's have messages about global warming, like "Warning: Hurricane Human," and "There Is No Away."
One of Guariglia’s signs is on display at Anderson Ranch. Later, it will make an appearance on Fanny Hill at Snowmass, a hard-to-miss reminder of how vulnerable skiing is to climate change.
Guariglia used to be a photojournalist, documenting environmental issues in Shanghai and Hong Kong. But he felt that just capturing images didn’t go far enough.
"I began to have an opinion," he said.
Now, he’s a multimedia artist. His whole goal is to help people understand that climate change is an urgent issue.
"Just because you look out your window and you don’t see armageddon, does not mean it’s not happening," he said.
Guariglia says the time is now for creatives to speak out on climate change.
“What else do we have to get people to really reimagine the future? We need writers, we need poets, we need philosophers and we need artists to be able to help shift the conversation and people’s mindsets,” he said
But it’s not as if science doesn’t have a seat at the table. Guarigia partners with researchers and academics in his work.
And science is a part of “Imagine Climate,” too.
Part of the exhibit is a station, run by CORE, that can calculate someone’s carbon footprint, and how much they can reduce it, if they buy LED bulbs, or use alternative energy. It’s a reminder of how art and science are working together to spur action.