Ecoart Characteristics


There have been multiple attempts by artists, scholars and curators to pin down a definition of ecoart (abbreviated term for ecological art). The following definition is meant to add to a dialog of inquiry.


Written for CAA panel in 1999 by Aviva Rahmani, Jo Hanson, Susan Leibovitz Steinman

1. Activist agenda.
2. Precedents: conceptual, performance, feminist & activist political art movement.
3. Concern for environmental impact distinctly separates it from Earth/Land art.
4. Ecological intent and ethics unify the field; not material nor media.
5. Not just site specific, but community and habitat specific.
6. Work often difficult to locate/see due to regional venues and performative nature.
7. Commitment to conscious relationship to restoration ethic; art actions to heal or repair.
8. Cross-disciplinary, multi disciplinary collaborations, with scientist, grassroots, others.
9. Shared concern for educating and engaging the public.
10. Interest in creating linkages among communities (e.g., migration paths, watersheds).
11. Serious engagement of scientific theory integral to aesthetic integrity of artwork.
12. Temporal work on land with minimal intervention frames otherwise invisible issues.
13. International movement that supports regional projects for global health.
14. Creation of new myths/metaphors to encourage attitudinal shifts and collective wisdom.


by Ruth Wallen

Ecoart focuses on systems of ecological relationships. These relationships include not only physical and biological pathways but also cultural, political and historical aspects of communities or ecological systems. Much ecoart is motivated by recognition that current patterns of consumption and resource use are dangerously unsustainable. Instead of focusing on individual gain, ecoart is grounded in an ethos that emphasizes communities and interrelationship.

Ecoart work can help engender an appreciation of the environment, broaden intellectual understanding, address core values and advocate social or political change. The focus of a given work of art may range from elucidating the complex structure of an ecosystem, exploring a particular issue, or engaging in a restorative remediative function. Ecoart encompasses both process, i.e. design and planning, and product, in the form of a discreet work of art. Metaphor is often a key element of ecoart. Metaphors help both to make apparent existing patterns of relationship and to envision new types of interation.

Ecoart is much more that a traditional painting, photograph or sculpture of the natural landscape. While such works may be visually pleasing, they are generally based on awe-inspiring or picturesque, preconceived views of the natural world. Ecoart, in contrast, exists within a social context. While certain works may express an individual vision, the intent is to communicate – to inspire caring and respect, stimulate dialogue, and contribute to social transformation.