Nature as Art: 14 Intriguing Environmental Installations

Whether making a statement about an environmental issue like pollution or the waste of resources, or simply using nature as an art medium and canvas, these 14 large-scale works of art take advantage of the beauty of the natural world.

Amazing Living Plant Sculptures

Forty amazing living plant sculptures liven up the Montreal Botanical gardens in Canada at the Mosaicultures Internationales Montreal 2013 event. The creations are cultivated by 200 international horticultural artists and some stand dozens of feet high. Over three million plants and flowers were used to create the large-scale environmental designs.

Painted Snow Palettes by Toshihiko Shibuya

Japanese artist Toshihiko Shibuya casts colorful little shapes into the snow with ‘Snow Palette 5’, an installation at the Otaru Canal Plaza. Doughnut-shaped iron structures are painted with vivid neon colors on their undersides and placed on steel legs of varying heights, with the colors reflecting down into the snow, making it seem as if it has been dyed.

Discarded Wooden Chairs Attached to Trees

When you throw away old furniture, do you ever think of where it came from, and where it will go? Artist Tom Shields attaches discarded chairs to trees in an installation at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, providing a striking visual of the environmental cost of these items.  The chairs will eventually rot and fall onto the forest floor, rejoining the cycle of a tree’s life.

Debris from Houston’s Waterways Made into Sculpture

A series of abstract sculptures along the coast is made up of debris found within the city of Houston. ‘Human Debris’ by Jeremy Underwoods “is a commentary on what humans leave in the natural landscape,” says the artist. “Each found material lends itself to a new creation, encompassing the former life of the debris into each sculpture.”

Digital Imagery Superimposed onto Forests

Neon imagery of modern life is digitally superimposed onto peaceful forest scenes in this series by Mark Dorf. The series comments on our dependency on the internet to navigate or even just to live our daily lives. “It is no longer about logging on or off, but rather living within the realms and constructs of the internet for our newest generation of inhabitants.”

English Beaches Covered in Swirls by Tony Plant

The beaches of England become temporary canvases for massive swirling works of art by Tony Plant. The artist uses a rake to create his beautiful patterns in the flat, smooth sand below the tidal zones, and they’re only visible for a few hours before being swept away by the seas.

Ephemeral Sculptures by Martin Hill and Philippa Jones

Nature becomes the backdrop, canvas and medium for ephemeral works of environmental art by Martin Hill and Philippa Jones. Reeds, ice, leaves, branches, stones and other natural objects are used to create arches, circles and other shapes. Says Hill, “The use of circles refers to nature’s cyclical system which is now being used a a model for industrial ecology. Sustainability will be achieved by redesigning products and industrial processes as closed loops –  materials that can’t safely be returned to nature will be continually turned into new products.”

11-Acre Landscape Portrait by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

A portrait of an anonymous Belfast girl is cut into an 11-acre plot of land as part of the Belfast Festival in Ireland by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Geralda. It’s so big, it can only be seen in full from the air or from the highest points in the city. State-of-the-art GPS technology aids in the placing of 30,000 wooden stakes and nearly 8 million pounds of soil, sand and rock to create the photorealistic result.

Technicolor Trees Lit by Solar LEDs

Sometimes beautiful, dramatic effects are possible using the simplest of techniques, like uplighting trees with colorful LED lights. This project turns trees at the Brompton Lodge into off-grid works of art at night with solar-powered lights timed based on the cycle of the sun.

Large-Scale Snow Art by Simon Beck

Massive winter ‘crop circles’ appear in the snow at the Les Arcs ski resort in France each year, the work of artist Simon Beck and a pair of snow shoes. He spends an entire day – sometimes even two days – creating each image, which can be enjoyed by skiers as they go up and down the mountain. Wind or fresh snowfall destroys the works within a week or so.

Drawings in the Sand by Jim Denevan

Sand artist, surfer and chef Jim Denevan uses a rake or just a driftwood stick to create monumental works of sand art so perfect in proportion, they seem like they must have been aided by computer somehow. Denevan started these works as a way to deal with his father’s Alzheimer’s disease, saying “To get out everyday and lose a drawing that’s a mile across every time – it’s a great fight.”

Rotating Air Gardens in Melbourne

Three-dimensional shapes covered in air plants made up the world’s first rotating, spinning gardens in Melbourne recently. Artist Lloyd Godman attached the plants to wires suspended between light posts for the beautiful installations, which require no upkeep.

Beach Calligraphy in South Africa

Andrew van deer Merwe etches large-scale calligraphy into the sand, interested more in the form and look of the words than what they mean. He’s particularly fond of Adinkra symbols created by the Aken people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. These ephemeral works of art are then quickly photographed before the seas take them away.

Giant Rice Paddy Art in Japan

Rice paddies in Japan become large-scale art installations in a fun tradition called Tanbo Art. The process is dye-free – made using different varieties and colors of rice only.

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