Eco-Graffiti: 10 Guerilla Garden-Inspired Artists That Respect Mother Nature

From time to time, we all experience feelings that bubble up within our bodies, desperate to be unleashed on the world. Graffiti has traditionally served as an ideal outlet for those who feel that writing in personal journals or unloading on psychological professionals just doesn’t cut it, but the vandalism side effect does nothing for one’s future career prospects. Where yesterday’s graffiti artists brandished permanent ink, markers and paint to emblazon counter-culture messages and images onto city streets, signs, buildings and overpasses, their more eco-savvy modern counterparts are now making an equally bold statement while using particularly inventive tagging alternatives such as liquefied mud, moss, recycled fur and plain old pressure washers. Finally, making a brash artistic splash that comments loudly and even anarchistically on the state of society today is within reach (without technically damaging public property)! For visual inspiration and DIY public greenification, the following eco-graffiti examples will surely fuel the flames of personal expression that are burning brightly in your soul…with no threat of handcuffs or pricey fines.

Jesse Graves

(Images via: Shaunie P., Groundswell Collective, Treehugger, See Brown Blog, May’s Machete)

We use it in the form of a facial mask to draw out impurities from the skin, so it makes perfect sense that watered-down dirt is the ideal foil for artist Jesse Graves’ environmental messages. Combining the two basic elements of H20 and terra firma yields an easily manipulated eco-paint that can be slathered onto stencils and carefully peeled away to reveal thought-provoking messages that disintegrate over time. How apropos that Graves’ impermanent medium mirrors the human tendency to get derailed and forgetful where environmental causes are concerned. A coincidence? I think not. However, in true crowd-source fashion, the artist happily dispenses helpful ‘how to’ instructions on his website, which will hopefully get people riled up enough to lobby on behalf of Mother Nature this weekend!

Neozoon

(Images via: Neozoon)

Whether you’re of the PETA persuasion, you’ve simply been perplexed as to why some find it desirable to paint the town red while wearing dead animal coats on their backs, or you aren’t altogether cool with the notion of the captor-captive relationship, the international artistic collaborative known as Neozoon (a term that references the existence of non-indigenous species) offers interesting food for thought by placing random animal figures throughout the streets of Paris and Berlin wearing assorted recycled fur coats rescued from local thrift stores. The diverse group of artists — who prefer to preserve their anonymity with masks during all public appearances – have proven that their ongoing project is more than just a quirky little pastime. They strategically select the location of all future animal figure installations based on what has happened throughout history, as was the case when they placed recycled fur covered sheep right outside of a former slaughterhouse or bear silhouettes near the location of a former kennel that housed a number of great Ursidae mammals for decades on end. They hope that by “reintroducing (discarded fur coats) to the environment” in their “former shape” that onlookers will recognize that the figures “used to be living animal(s).”

Anna Garforth

(Images via: Yatzer, Free People, Cross Hatchling)

London-based illustrator and graphic designer Anna Garforth propelled herself from paper to three dimensional eco-sculpture by partnering with Elly Stevens in a series of artistic projects that employ sustainable materials, including tree bark, ferns, grass and, most famously, moss. Their collaboration, known as MOSSenger, has yielded impossibly legible and poetic living typography emblazoned on the front of walls, inspired partially from the urban plant life that despite all odds still manages to flourish amid “cracks in the concrete.” Beyond their iconic mossy graffiti partnership, Garforth has also dabbled in recycled leaves and plain old trash to great artistic effect.

Paul Curtis (aka ‘Moose’)

(Images via: Granny Buttons, Daily Art Fixx, Green Answers, Format Mag)

Ask anyone the question: “Who started reverse graffiti?” – the term used to identify any city image that is created on walls, streets, sidewalks or objects by removing dirt with fingers, power washers and copious amounts of detergent — and British artist Paul Curtis will be given all the credit…and rightfully so. For the past 10 years, the Soundclash record label head, disc jockey, eco-marketing guru and self-confessed ‘Professor of Dirt’ has devoted his spare time to the fine art of defacing public surfaces with cleansing messages, all of which have culminated in commercial contracts with high profile brands. One of his biggest coups was being commissioned by Green Works cleaning products to create an impressive eco-inspired mural in San Francisco’s Broadway tunnel (documented in the video above). Despite the fact that Curtis is “not the world’s biggest environmentalist,” he acknowledges that his distinctive art form sheds light on the omnipresent pollution that exists in the world’s cities and hopes that people will become inspired to tread far more lightly.

CURB

(Images via: CURB, Interactive Angle, Culture Buzz, Springwise)

Inspired by the eco-graffiti trend that has swept the globe, the marketing organization CURB earns their bread and butter by pimping out Momma Nature on behalf of some of the most notable consumer brands and organizations using nothing more than creativity and artfully arranged snow, sand, grass, dirt, water, and even glow in the dark bacteria. As with the other green graffiti examples cited in this article, CURB dabbles in so many intriguing biodegradable and zero-impact mediums that it’s hard not to give them credit – despite their corporate status – for sustainably spreading the word about brands that will ultimately perpetuate our consumerism. Oh, wait a minute…perhaps they really deserve no pat on the back at all. Still, from a completely environmental and artistic perspective, their marketing strategy is really novel, easy on the eyes and absolutely promotes the ‘waste not, want not’ battle cry. From car window dust scapes, carved compost reliefs and sand sculptures to snow imprints and selectively shaped grass structures, CURB is setting a new green eco-advertising standard that (fingers crossed) will catch on like wildfire.

The Dutch Ink Clan

(Images via: Ette Studios)

Working as a reverse graffiti team along the lines of master artist Paul Curtis, several Durban, South Africa schoolmates – including Martin Pace, Stathi Kongianos, JP Jordaan and Nick Ferreira – launched their artistic project by hand scrubbing a visual timeline of their town’s architecture into a pollution covered 17 meter tall concrete freeway wall in Essex Terrace using nothing more than a hardware store-purchased metal brush. With accolades and widespread public appreciation, they moved on to bigger and better projects reflecting more organic scenes such as a school of sardines swimming across a city bridge (which look almost fossilized and prehistoric) as well as a stylistic forest that resembles that of a solar print.

Graffiti Research Lab

(Images via: Gothamist, Digicult, Cranium, DigiArts)

Formed 5 years ago, the Graffiti Research Lab — the brainchild of robotics engineer James Powderly and Parsons School of Design valedictorian Evan Roth – offers a veritable open source toolbox for eco-sensitive activists and graffiti artists to take advantage of. Unlike employing typical earth-bound media such as mud, moss and grass, the duo help the public to communicate their messages thanks to the glorious trinity of computers, video cameras and lights which work in tandem to project images on whatever formerly unreachable surfaces might tickle one’s fancy. The result is visually arresting, particularly when New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge or Italy’s Roman Coliseum are used as canvases, enabling those who have a thing or two on their minds to say it in grand style without damaging a single blade of grass…or their law-abiding reputation.

Edina Tokodi (aka ‘Mosstika’)

(Images via: Mosstika, Design Boom)

Easily able to pull her weight with the best of ‘em, Hungarian-born Edina Tokodi – whose stomping grounds are now in the heart of Brooklyn, New York – is a green graffiti artiste extraordinaire who focuses specifically on bringing “nature closer to city dwellers” through the installation of socially relevant images that trigger environmental appreciation. This is one artist who is particularly passionate about reducing her eco-toll, habitually returning to the scene of her artistic crimes “to visit (her) plants or moss, sometimes to repair them a bit. I am curious about how people receive them, if they just leave them alone, or if they…take care of them or dismantle them. This is what makes my work similar to graffiti, although I am searching for a deeper social meaning.” Choosing typically barren, construction-racked areas to inject with a bit of touchable greenery, Tokodi encourages people to appreciate the tactile sensation of her installations and perhaps even become inspired to reacquaint themselves with their own personal green thumbs.

Alexandre Orion

(Images via: Bldg Blog)

Skulls don’t seem like particularly green subject matter to focus on, but when they’re etched into the inner tunnel of a highly trafficked area via the grand reverse graffiti tradition, they instantly trigger an ‘ah-ha’ moment. They no longer represent trendy, bad @$$ imagery — instead, they serve as a blatant reminder that the toxic pollution released from the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that commute back and forth on a daily basis have left a tangible mark…not just on our physical structures, but also in the air we breathe and in the environment that is supposed to sustain us. Brazilian graffiti artist Alexandre Orion – who in 2007 transformed Sao Paolo’s Max Feffer Tunnel into an outstandingly impactful verdict on our passive pollution oblivion – fortunately had his project filmed before the city washed away all traces of its existence.

Vichen

(Images via: Vinchen)

Vinchen has earned a reputation on par with Banksy as one to be admired, revered and even emulated…and as his website appropriately asks, “What have you done to change the world lately?” One look at his collection of visually arresting images and you’re immediately struck with the sense that the Ohio artist really means business. His varied and judiciously delivered messages comment on everything from bureaucratic nonsense and chronic hyper-consumerism to social classes and the state of the environment. Of his most clever imagery, Vinchen’s simply named “Ivy” – located on Columbus, Ohio’s High Street – uses a crowning glory of plant life as the perfect accent to a grinning face peering from beneath. On the flip side, his depiction of two innocent Bambi-like fawns nonchalantly nibbling on a radioactive flower cause one to exhale a heavy sigh, knowing full well that there’s more truth in it than we’d like to admit.

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