Climate Art

Here’s a belated holiday gift - climate change eye candy. Nathalie Miebach’s colorful  Changing Water - Gulf of Maine embodies the scientific measurements of that chunk of ocean’s weather. 

Changing Water - Gulf of Maine

Changing Water - Gulf of Maine

Quite an image. And it’s more than a portrait.

Portraits of nature

To appreciate what Miebach’s done, it helps to remember how artists have depicted marine life in the past. Historically we started with portraits – accurate depictions of what artists saw.

At first, artists used drawing to translate 3-D plants and animals into accessible and printable 2-D images. Like Audubon and his birds.

Once photography came along, hardy wildlife types brought us more portraits of hard-to-get-to creatures. I’ve especially appreciated my favorite whale photographers

Less familiar is using crochet, a 3-D medium. Dr. Daina Taimina, a mathematician, created crocheted forms to show the complex math of hyperbolic forms which no one had been able to depict in other ways. Nature of course had been making such forms for eons, as in coral reefs. 

Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg. Photos © The IFF by Alyssa Gorelick.

Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg.
Photos © The IFF by Alyssa Gorelick.

Beyond Portraits

Nathalie Miebach goes beyond portraits of what is seen to organize ocean and weather data into woven sculptures; she makes these invisible complex climate systems visible. Changing Water - Gulf of Maine, above, is installed on the wall to include various shadow effects.

Other pieces stand free so you can walk around them.

Superstorm Sandy Nathalie Miebach, b. 1972 “O Fortuna Sandy Spins,” 2013

Superstorm Sandy Nathalie Miebach, b. 1972
“O Fortuna Sandy Spins,” 2013

Her use of weather data from very specific local events adds reality to their abstract beautiful patterns. These images alert us to very real climate challenges that have made the headlines in very real places.

I like how her work is almost overwhelming in showing our climate as detailed and complex and local. It is welcome reminder not to expect easy answers in the debate about global warming and possible actions.

You can learn more about her work from an artist’s perspective in American Craft magazine.  

And, finally, you can give yourself one last holiday treat by watching her crisp yet far-ranging 5-minute TED talk. With her inspiration, I wish you all a creative New Year.
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Photos of Miebach's work with permission.