December 27, 2012

Ralph Steadman and Extinct Boids

Ralph Steadman is possibly most well-known for his collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson on the Gonza journalism piece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman has also used his humor (often quite dark humor at that), loose ink work complete with ink blots and sprays, weird characters, and tell-it-like-it-is attitude (…or at least tell-it-like-I-see-it attitude) for political cartoons, illustrations for books such as Alice in Wonderland (at least as drug induced as Fear and Loathing) and Animal Farm, portraits, and alcoholic drink labels. Steadman has also published a number books including Still Life with Bottle: Whisky According to Ralph Steadman, Tales of Weirrd, The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs, Untrodden Grapes, and Grapes of Ralph.

Steadman’s most recent publication is Extinct Boids, a collaborative effort with Ceri Levy, the film producer and director of Bananaz, about the Gorillaz, and Blur:Starshaped. Levy was working on a documentary about birding, birders, and how birds influence society. Levy was interested in creating an exhibition called Ghosts of Gone Birds, in which he would curate renditions of birds by contemporary artists. When he asked Steadman for an illustration it turned into more than 100 illustrations that evolved into their Extinct Boids. The book is a collection of illustrations of extinct birds, both fictional and non, and diary-style entries between the two authors.

Two things in particular stand out about this book: that it is comic, and that it includes fictional species. A comic approach to serious topics is characteristic of Steadman’s work, but also a new way of approaching serious environmental topics such as extinction. Steadman and Levy note that if they can bring people to the subject in a fun way, maybe they can motivate the reader/viewer to work on solutions for living species. Including fictional species is a type of Gonzo Journalism. It is an interpretation of the “truth” without claiming to be “fact”. The authors also mention that the imagined creatures, in part, allude to all the species of the past that we do not, and will never know.
Dodo, Cover of Extinct Boids, Steadman & Levy

The Great Extinct Auk, Extinct Boids, Steadman

From Extinct Boids, Steadman

From Extinct Boids, Steadman

From Extinct Boids, Steadman 


December 19, 2012

Alexis Rockman

I was first introduced to Alexis Rockman’s work by a professor of mine while I was working on my Amphibian Decline Series. I was inspired by the similarities between Rockman’s work and the art that I was working on. At the time I had been working on Disease and I was thrilled to find creatures with extra appendages (also see Brandon Ballengee), and microscopic imagery in Rockman’s work. Rockman often focuses on themes related to the environment including climate change, genetic modification, and the earth after humans.

Rockman (1962-present) lives and works in New York City.  He attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. His realism and vibrant colors make his apocalyptic and nuclear scenes all the more eerie.  Whether you think Rockman’s paintings are disgusting, scary, of funny I think we can all agree on their bold strength.


From South: Untitled (Antarctica 4), 2008, watercolor on paper, 13.75 x 17.75 in.

From Half-Life: Gerbera Daisy, 2007, oil on wood, 56 x 44 in.

From America Icons: Manifest Destiny, 2004, oil on wood, 96 x 288 in.

From Wonderful World: The Farm, 2000, oil & acrylic on wood panel, 96 x 120 in.

From Future Evolution: Central Park, 1997-98, oil and acrylic on two wood panels, 48 x 80 in.
From Watercolors: Untitled, 1991, watercolor and ink on paper, 14 x 20 in.

Alternatives to the UN Climate Talks System

This is an interesting article that touches on the debate in my post COP 18 and Climate Change Policy. It includes some examples of the pushback to the UN system and the implications of changing our current system.

December 17, 2012

COP 18 and Climate Change Policy

The 18th Conference of the Parties ( COP 18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Doha, Qatar from November 26, 2012 to December 8, 2012.

Many of the recent COPs have been considered a bit of a failure by environmentally concerned entities around the world. COP 18 is no exception, in that we are still lacking significant and much needed international commitments to greenhouse gas emission reductions and other climate change mitigation strategies. A couple positive highlights of COP 18 include the decision to work towards gender equality for future conferences, and the agreement that the parties to the Kyoto Protocol will enter into the second commitment period on January 1, 2013.

It is frustrating to watch our world’s leaders talk about climate change but fail to take meaningful and binding steps towards addressing mitigation and adaptation. As lack of consensus and problematic one-size-fits-all solutions hamper significant movement towards effective and binding international agreements, more focus and attention is on smaller scale solutions including bilateral agreements and sub-national programs.

For better or worse, the COPs are a forum for the international community to come together and talk about climate change. The process is not solving climate change challenges as fast as the scientific community recommends for mitigating a significant anthropogenic increase in average global temperatures, but it is still important. International and intergovernmental conversation and action to mitigate and adapt to climate change is a crucial part of how to move forward, but we should not rely on this strategy alone. Working with top-down strategies alongside bottom-up and grassroots initiatives will surely be the most effective way to maintain the health of our ecosystems and societies for years to come.

Here are a few related resources that are both interesting and informative.

Notes on COPs and International Climate Policy:

Doha disappointment:

Gender equality for future COPs:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

Kyoto Protocol:

Sub-National Action on Climate Change, Yale University:





December 12, 2012

Environmental Art: An invitation to explore and imagine

Environmental Art:

Art dealing with ecological issues;
the natural world;
and/or the relationships between humans and their environment.

I have yet to find a definition that better satisfies the vision in my head of the plethora of fantastic art and motivated individuals working in the field. The definition above is my own working definition that serves as my guide and theme for this blog.

Usually when I mention environmental art to someone the response I get is, “what’s that?” If I am talking with someone who has had a little art history, they usually think of Robert Smithson or Christo and Jeanne-Claude. With no doubt, these artists are environmental artists, but I challenge my readers and art appreciators everywhere to broaden their ideas about art and the environment and how they come together in the burgeoning field of environmental art. Consider the possibilities that art can have to educate and raise awareness of environmental issues, find creative solutions to the environment’s and society’s most pressing challenges, and to create more sustainable and empathetic communities.

This blog is also a forum for topics related to environmental art including environmental policy, technological innovations, environmental news, art, architecture, creative solutions to today's problems, and anything else that is noteworthy. Comments, articles, suggestions, and critiques are always welcome.

Thank you for reading.