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Date Submitted

Spring 5-11-2012

Research Mentor and Department

Mike Bezemek

Restricted/Unrestricted

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Environmental art, unlike preceding artistic movements, is not defined by particular aesthetic but by the themes conveyed by the relevant artwork. The environmental art style since the 1960s has evolved in parallel to both mainstream art, changing focus from physical aesthetics to modern abstract concepts; and environmentalism, shifting from stagnant landscapes to interactive systems.

Through comparison of art theory and environmentalism, this project shows how this coevolution allowed humans to perceive the environment as dynamic, vulnerable and volatile. I analyze changes in the public perception of the environment by examining three representative environmental art pieces: Time Landscapes by Alan Sonfis (1978), Tree Mountain by Agnes Denes (1996), and Cloud-Specific by Tomás Saraceno. Presented chronoloically, these three exhibit the differences attitude shifts within the movement. From Sonfist’s focus on the past, to Denes’s emphasis on the present, to Saraceno’s concern about the future, each artist and his or her work reflect the changing public attitude about the human relationship with nature.

This project shows how art can reflect environmental attitudes and how environmental art might be used to cultivate better public understanding of the human-nature relationship.