Editor’s note: Voting for the 2022 SmartArt People’s Choice award has closed. Thank you for participating this year.
Talented artists create works that get people talking, regardless of their age. When it comes to starting conversations around renewable energy, we’ve found great inspiration from Grand Rapids Public Schools students through their participation in our SmartArt competition. Held during ArtPrize, the competition asks students to create artwork that highlights renewable energy.
One component of the contest is the People’s Choice Award. Jurors from Grand Rapids Community College, Kendall Collage of Art and Design and Grand Valley State University have helped us narrow down the field to ten works of art. Now we need your help in selecting the winner. Below, you’ll find the art, the artist’s statement about their work and a poll where you can vote for your favorite piece of art.
Twin Sisters entails the similarities our planet has with Venus. While the two are often compared to one another astronomically, they are at least polar opposites in one aspect: Life sustainability. With the global temperature and carbon emissions rising over the decades, cracking down on avoiding great damage is quite important. The pollution of the world’s oceans and atmosphere are leading to environmental ruin. Global warming and climate change are not new topics, but they’ve become devoid of meaning. We hear it consistently; “We don’t have much time left”. It’s as if we are in a snow globe of stagnance looking outside the class of inevitability, watching the world suffer from our actions. Carbon and fuel emissions have been on a sharp rise, tainting the air with the byproducts of our desire for convenience and comfort. In this piece, the planets are connected by trees. The fiery orange leaves of the tree of Venus seem to put the flowers of the earth tree to death, leaving bare branches. Looking at the similarities between Earth and Venus may be of interest, but only one person alone cannot make an impact. We need to come together to tackle this man-made affliction to earth with strong force. Why go looking for a new earth when we can’t take care of our own? The cycle will only continue. If we don’t implement solutions into high priority areas, Earth and Venus may become even more like twin sisters.
Sea Change portrays how fish and other marine animals are affected by the amount of trash that ends up in our oceans. At least 14 million tons of trash end up in the ocean each year, and over 1 million marine animals die each year because of this. To show the various types of trash that are often found in oceans, I added trash, such as plastic bags, cigarette butts, and wrappers as well as a gas mask and a plastic bottle to construct the body of a fish. I used mostly glue to stick everything together with a few staples to hold the fins. I want my viewer to see the trash that is thrown into the ocean through a new lens with the hope that Sea Change will remind someone of the consequences of their choices.
By A Thread
In my piece, I want to show the fragility of Earth’s environment due to climate change. I want to show that only humans can reestablish balance and reduce carbon emissions. We are running out of time to reverse the consequences of our carbon emissions. However, there is still hope if we use renewable energy sources.
The polymer clay hand is holding onto the mobile’s string/thread with only two fingers to show the delicate state our environment is in, and how climate change is close to becoming irreversible.
I created a mobile to represent that younger generations are forced to suffer the consequences of older generations’ actions. Already, Generation Z has greatly suffered from the effects of carbon emissions – carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere by companies built by older generations. If action isn’t’ taken soon, Gen Z will be left completely alone to clean up the mess.
On the first layer of the mobile, I created pendants with images representing various renewable energy sources available in Michigan. There is hope for the Earth, we just have to use these technologies now. On the second layer of the mobile are flowers, and I coated these in UV resin to preserve their liveliness and color. I wanted to represent how we can preserve the nature and beauty of Michigan, and this world, by switching to renewable energy sources.
The human race caused carbon emissions to increase, and it is our responsibility to fix the problem now.
After The Storm
In my artwork, I used the ocean and ocean life as renewable energy sources. Ocean energy is energy that comes from ocean motion or its physical and chemical state, and in the United States, ocean energy can be generated from waves, tides, currents, as well as variations in ocean temperature. The ocean, which covers 70% of the world’s surface, is one of the richest sources of renewable energy on Earth. Their power can be captured and converted into pure electricity – potentially enough for more than twice the world’s energy. And we can exploit it without damaging the ocean while helping the plant and people at the same time. Life in the ocean is also significant. Aquatic life accounts for approximately 94% of all life on Earth. Fish from the seas and oceans are the world’s largest source of protean for people. I wanted to capture both the beauty of the ocean and ocean life in my art piece by utilizing watercolor paint that nearly reflects how the ocean water appears. I created a city underwater to illustrate how powerful the ocean is to Earth, and it can also be viewed as how the human influence on the coast environment can cause rising sea levels. I created on fish specifically for the center of my piece because I wanted to let people know that ocean life is significant and doesn’t need humans to thrive, but humans would suffer without ocean life.
Renewable energy is replacing fossil fuels as more windmills, solar panels, geothermal energy plants, and other systems are built. And after a long, cold winter, beautiful Michigan flowers are blossoming.
These two images, while differing visually, are similar in that they both represent growth. In this piece, windmills and flowers native to Michigan, including beach peas, black-eyed Susans, and irises, sprout out of the solar panels. I wanted to create an artwork that was hopeful amidst the darkness of the climate crisis, that celebrates the beauty of Michigan’s wilderness and the renewables that protect it.
Renewable energy is a major combatant to climate change. Renewables emit little to no greenhouse gasses, which contribute to increasing global temperatures. Solar energy, an important renewable resource, creates emission-free electricity with minimal environmental impact. On the federal level, through 2021, the U.S. now has over 121 Gigawatts of solar electric capacity, which can power over 23.3 million U.S. homes and neutralize over 136 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
In Michigan, renewable energy will continue to create jobs if policies are passed that support Michigan’s goal of decarbonization by 2050, renewable resources, and electric vehicles. Electing officials and taking actions that will support clean energy is vital. This piece is meant to inspire hope and advocacy for renewable resources, which protect the natural places in Michigan and around the world.
My mixed-media piece depicts the ocean with coral in the shape of the Grand Rapids city skyline, connecting my home to the depths of the sea, because all areas of Earth are affected. More than ever, it’s important to use clean energy and discover/develop new energy sources. My piece includes current renewable energy sources illustrated in the four small jellyfish: sun, wind, water, and biomass. I wanted to bring attention to an additional source that might provide future energy in the primary jellyfish: Bioluminescence and possibly coral (if we can save it). Certain types of jellyfish contain a naturally occurring substance called green fluorescent protein (GFP), which gives them the glow they are famous for. This unexpected energy possibly should be a reminder to embrace a certain innovative mindset. This mindset employs a renewed outlook on what would otherwise be overlooked resources to creatively confront our environmental and energy issues.
A Story of the Environment
My linoleum printmaking piece is divided into two parts in order to tell a story. The first part is titled “The Consequences of my Own Inaction”, and the second is titled “It’s not Too Late… We can Save Her.” The first piece depicts a figure in distress, surrounded by their own intrusive thoughts. Their appearance is monstrous and unnatural, furthering their discomfort. The piece as a whole is a cautionary tale, but also one of hope. The first part, based on my own anxieties relating to the state of our world, serves to warn those who minimize the catastrophic effects of global warming. It’s not too late, but if we as a society continue to do nothing or put the work aside, it will be. I feel most people will be able to relate to my piece. Even if they themselves aren’t anxious about the environment, everyone has experienced anxiety in one way or another. The second part is the same figure, though this time we can see their location. Despite being scarred, the figure is healing from their experiences within a serene environment which depicts clean energy. This serves to show a solution to the hopeless.
The Time We Have Left
“The Time We Have Left” was created using carboard, paint, fire and photo editing. I wanted to communicate about climate change and the feelings of sadness and concern. My goal was to try and create something that would communicate about climate change in a way that is thought provoking. Something I learned while creating this is that fire is hard to control and bend to get the final result just how you want it, but very rewarding in the end. It’s really important to think about the future of the world we live in and how we treat it. If we ignore the fire of pollution and climate change that’s slowly making our planet uninhabitable, then it will be too late in the future to reverse the damage we’ve done now.
Imagine if we could take gasses in the air – car exhaust, fumes from factories, etc. – and turn them into energy, cleaning the air and creating a new energy source at the same time. While this is a largely imagined concept, my research brought me to something similar: biogenic methane. Generally, we think of methane as a nonrenewable natural gas, but there are actually three types of methane – abiogenic, thermogenic, and biogenic methane. Abiogenic and thermogenic methane are nonrenewable fossil fuels, created over millions or billions of years, but biogenic methane (or biomethane) is renewable. This renewable natural gas is created by landfills, sewage, organic waste, and dead plant and animal material. However, like most renewable energy sources, it is not widely used.
For this piece, I was heavily inspired by both American and Scandinavian folk art. Something about the bright colors and simple yet graceful shapes in both and the appearance of landscapes in American folk art really draws me. Two countries in Scandinavia, Norway and Sweden, are also two of the leading countries in renewable energy use. This type of folk art also incorporates a part of my heritage. As a child, I remember being mesmerized by the Swedish wall art filling my family’s cottage, ultimately being one of my first art inspirations. I hope this piece brings a similar childish wonder to the viewer and strikes in them an interest for both folk art and renewable energy.