Yearly Archives: 2017

Climate Change and the Oceans: One Artist’s Response 

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

What could I do with my rage, despair, and disbelief after the calamitous US election? My mind raced as I realized the new president’s intention to turn back Obama’s climate change protections and give free reign to climate change-denying, coal-burning, and oil-drilling billionaires. What would happen to our Mother Earth, our life-giving oceans, and our future generations?

On the eve of the inauguration, the only thing I could do was to make a political statement with my art, particularly on the topic of climate change and the oceans. Recently my digital collages have explored the beauty and serenity of sea shells and seashores with photography and scanned acrylic painting. Because of this work, it was an easy transition for me to make this statement using similar digital techniques, and visual elements of sea creatures and bodies of water. In this new series, the colors and shapes are more dramatic than the previous gentle images of shells and shores. The semi-abstract images could be harder to interpret, even with the titles and written descriptions that inform the viewer of various environmental issues. Some of my followers have found the new series austere, and some have seen the beauty in it, but all have been supportive of the new work.

Perhaps the most alarming of the collages is Coral Grief (pictured above). Ocean coral gets its purple, pink, and other colors from the algae living within it. Existing in a symbiotic relationship, the coral provides a dwelling for the algae, while the algae provide the coral with food. Coral reefs thrive within a narrow temperature range. Their fate is being challenged as the oceans absorb much of the heat created by global warming. When coral is stressed, it discharges its algae and becomes white or bleached, and vulnerable to death. A major bleaching event is considered one of the most visual indicators of climate change.

This image was produced by layering ocean and coral photography. With photo-manipulation, I was able to portray the coral as bleached. As I searched for an appropriate title, the term coral reef yielded to the reality of ‘coral grief.’

Temperature Rising, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017.

Temperature Rising is a visual commentary on global warming. Carbon generated over the ages is stored in Arctic frozen soils called permafrost. As global temperatures rise, melting permafrost releases this stored carbon in the form of C02 and methane gas. With this release, both of these powerful greenhouse gases are expected to exacerbate climate change.

For me, Temperature Rising became an amalgamation of earth and sun, with the sun clearly encroaching on the available space. I started with a photograph of waves in the cobalt-blue Gulf of Mexico. With a photo-manipulation program, I inverted the ocean, and it stunningly became a bright yellow-gold. Inversion is the equivalent to reversing a color photograph to that of a negative. I found it interesting that the yellow-orange area bears some resemblance to sun spots and the bright areas (faculae) that surround them.

As an artist, I am fascinated with the patterns repeated in nature, from the spots on sea shells, to similar spots on leopards. The photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of newly forming stars in the ‘Pillars of Creation’ could be mistaken for exaggerated cumulonimbus clouds that accompany earthly thunderstorms. If these visual patterns are connected, aren’t all creatures and systems similarly bonded and worthy of concern?

Coastal Question, Betty Butler, Digital collage print, 2017.

Coastal Question asks questions related to our coasts. For example, how will sea level rise affect our cities? Sea levels in South Florida could rise up to two feet over the next four decades. That puts Miami Beach – an island three miles off the Florida coast – at risk… The city is already experiencing sunny day flooding – days when there’s no rain, but high tides push water up through storm drains and flood city streets.

The execution of this image began with a scan of an acrylic painting overlaid with coastal photographs. Shapes were subtracted digitally from the watery scene in order to allow the painted color to reveal itself. A similar technique was used in Sea Change.

Sea Change, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017.

In Sea Change, variations in color symbolically embody the non-static nature of our oceans. Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, broadly affecting ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems and marine life.

From the very start, the big concern about global warming has been the possibility of a ‘runaway’ global warming and climate change. ‘Runaway’ (self-accelerating) global heating and climate change is the planetary tipping point of many tipping points combined. We must work diligently to prevent this worst-case scenario from occurring.

Working on this series about climate change and the oceans has felt satisfying and productive. Connecting with organizations such as Artists and Climate Change has felt empowering. Even as scientists and climate-activists are marching and organizing, I hope that artists lending their voice to this urgent issue will provide an emotional component that inspires positive action. In spite of climate-denier propaganda, many U.S. citizens are aware of the climate-crisis; it just isn’t on the top of their list of concerns. It is not as personal to them as the need to pay the rent, and feed and educate their children. I hope that the beautiful, inspirational and gut-grabbing aspect of art will bring the nation toward realizing that their children’s and grandchildren’s very future is at stake, as drought and coastal city flooding induce food shortages, mass migration, conflict and war.

(Top image: Coral Grief, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017.)


Betty Butler is a nationally exhibiting artist, specializing in digital collages of her own painting and photography. She has recently participated in one-woman shows at the Frame Warehouse and Creative Coworking galleries, both based in Evanston IL. The artist has exhibited at Flow Art Space, St. Paul, MN and took part in a public art campaign in Niles, IL. Butler has won six awards, 2012-2017, in the new media category, from , an international contemporary art network. A native Chicagoan, she earned her B.A. in Design from the University of Illinois Chicago after studying fine arts in NYC.


About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog


Exhibition Open Call, Keelung Ciao

Keelung is a harbor city located in north-eastern Taiwan. The city is surrounded by mountains and oversees the Pacific Ocean. The diversity of landscape and historical heritage is the treasury of Keelung. This initiative seeks to build an art program which is compatible with marine culture, harbor tradition, and the landscape of Keelung with your participation.

During a 3 week residency artists will bring a very unique living and exhibition experience to Keelung. With the help of Keelung Ciao, help to carry a cultural movement into the next stage for the city and its citizens.  Download the open call for More Information.

This Call is Seeking a Participant Who Is:

  • An Artist (individual, group or collective). No limit of creation form.
  • Able to propose a project/artwork which responds to the curatorial statement.
  • Able to executive the proposed project. The project should be site specific.
  • Willing to work with local team including technicians, volunteers and local communities.
  • Highly interested in Keelung’s history, landscape, environment and cultural scape.
  • Able to communicate effectively in either Chinese or English.
  • Open minded with different cultures, has a positive attitude, and is willing to share experiences.
  • Able to participate in the exhibition schedule including installation period (10th/Sep/2017-4th/Oct/2017) and press release & opening (5th/Oct/2017-7th/Oct/2017).


Once selected, artists will be invited to be featured in 2017 Keelung Ciao Exhibition and receive NT$70,000 to execute his/her proposal. The budget includes production and installation fees.


For International Artists: A return economy class ticket from where artist live toTaipei Airport, Taiwan. and domestic transportation from airport to Keelung is covered.

For Taiwanese Artists: A return ticket of train/HSR/bus transportation from where artist live to Keelung is covered.

In Keelung:

During installation period, the curatorial team will provide Keelung’s travel info and suggested public transportation from accommodation to exhibition site.


  1. Please get approval from curatorial team BEFORE making any reservations.
  2. DO KEEP RECEIPTS and INVOICE for reimbursement.
  3. Visa, passport, application fee, and travel insurance are NOT included.


Arranged by exhibition organizer and executive, all participating artists will have individual accommodation and working space.

Supporting Staff:

Keelung City Cultural Affair Bureau will recruit volunteers who have English/Chinese speaking ability to support artists during the installation period.


The jury panel will consist of professionals from contemporary art, exhibition management, art, critics and art organization. The final selection will be announced online, and informed individually according to the exhibition schedule and budget.


Only online submission is accepted. Please submit the application and supporting material before 23 rd June 2017, 00:00 (GMT+8). For detail, please visit:

If you have any inquiries, please email:


Deadline of submission: 23 rd June 2017, 00:00 (GMT+8)

Final list announcement: 30 th June 2017

Artist arrival in Taiwan: 10 th September 2017

Installation Period: 10 th September to 4 th October (25 days in total)

Press conference: 5 th October 2017 (To be confirmed)

Opening: 6 th October 2017 (To be confirmed)

Exhibition Period: 6 th October 2017 – 5 th November 2017

Submit Online Now!


Call for Artists: WetlandLIFE

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The WetlandLIFE Research Team is looking for artists whose work can contribute to our knowledge and appreciation of wetlands and mosquitoes. By this we mean artworks, in any medium, that seek to influence our awareness, understanding, attitudes, emotions, values or behaviour towards them, and the ecological and social interactions that have brought them into being. This might be done by communicating the findings of researchers about wetlands and mosquitoes to new audiences, challenging how we think about them, or changing how we feel about them – perhaps helping us connect with them in new ways.

This is an exciting opportunity for artists to work alongside local communities and a diverse team of environmental researchers to show how art can influence how we value nature and ecosystem services. The focus of work will be on the Somerset Levels, Humber Levels and Thames Estuary, although reference will also be made to a broad range of inland and marine wetlands across England to capture the diversity of these places.

We are offering three bursaries of £5,000 each (total of £15,000). Artists can apply for the total amount – and create work that relates to the project’s three case study sites or to wetlands in general – or for one bursary worth £5000 – perhaps focusing specifically on one of the sites. We welcome applications from consortiums of artists working together to address all three sites. The bursaries cover the artist(s) fees, accommodation and travel, and all costs associated with the production and display of the artworks.

Artworks by the successful artist/s will be included in a final touring exhibition, planned in early/mid 2019, which will visit each of the three case study sites.

The full brief is available on the WetlandLIFE website.

WetlandLIFE is one of the projects funded through the multi-Research Council Valuing Nature Programme.

About EcoArtScotland:

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

Climate Change and Research Photoplay

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

How to visualize social sciences research and theoretical thinking

In my doctoral research, I study how Arctic communities use and co-produce knowledge on the future impacts of climate change to their living environment, livelihoods, and lifestyles, as a part of proactive, planned adaptation to climate change. While my main professional role is one of a multidisciplinary Arctic social scientist, my goals as an artist lie within science communications and public engagement.

When doing my PhD research on climate change adaptation-related planning, I have noticed how difficult it is to predict the future impacts of climate change. There are knowledge gaps and uncertainties concerning the functioning of the global climate system and its feedback mechanisms, and especially concerning the societal impacts of the changing natural conditions for Arctic communities and regions. The unpredictability of human behavior in terms of politics, technological development, and consumption trends, for example, make it difficult to know what’s going to happen with greenhouse gas emissions in the long run and globally. The uncertainties multiply the further the time span stretches. To bridge this gap, in addition to sophisticated scientific, futurological, and planning-related methods, a lot of imagination is needed. Art and speculative visualization can help envision what the Arctic would look like after many of the projected changes have come to pass.

There is increasing awareness among researchers of climate change-related topics of the importance of communicating science through creative and interactive means, including interactive websites, games, and art exhibitions.

Still, when I started my climate change adaptation doctoral research in Sociology at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland, I wouldn’t have believed that some years later I would have my own photography exhibition around this topic. While research ethics would restrict or make it impossible to illustrate the actual data collection process through photographs of interviewees or planning meetings, and social sciences research largely takes place in unsexy surroundings – in front of a computer or at a desk crowded with books – other more creative and artistic ways to visualize abstract issues can be found.

The symbolic animal brings a message on Arctic climate change

My solution to the problem of making the visualization of social sciences research both ethical and interesting was to photograph a plastic polar bear figurine in natural environments in different parts of the world. Since the polar bear figurine has followed me everywhere, tucked in my pocket, over the last five years (2011-2016), the photo exhibition also tells the story of my journey towards obtaining a PhD.

Photos from the Nanoq exhibition. Photo: Ilona Mettiäinen.

A PhD Summer School in Design Research in 2011 inspired me to start working with artistic methods for conceptual work and science communications. I had the idea to start taking photos of the plastic polar bear figurine I had bought in Tromsø, in the Norwegian Arctic, earlier that year. The project became serious when I was awarded a science popularization grant in 2015.

Nanoq – Imag(in)ing Climate Change is my first solo exhibition. From its first showing at Arktikum Science Centre in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland, the exhibition was well received. My polar bear photos have traveled to three different venues in Finland and the US, including the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. in March-April 2017 where they were displayed as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Independence of Finland. Several more showings are planned for 2017 at science fiction, science, and art-related events.

Through art, play, and imagination, the exhibition offers a way to visualize the possible worlds opening up because of climate change. It is both science communication and science fantasy. The hybrid photos, taken from 2011 to 2016 in different parts of the Arctic including Greenland, Iceland, North Norway, and Finnish Lapland, and also in India, create an artificial and imagined timeline of the impacts of climate change from icy to hot climatic conditions.

Photos from the Nanoq exhibition. Photo: Ilona Mettiäinen.

Polar bears live at the edge of the Arctic sea ice and are considered marine mammals. They are one of the world’s largest predators and their diet consists ideally of fatty seals and other marine mammals. As the Arctic sea ice melts, they lose their preferred habitats and must seek new homes in order to survive.

Because of the expected 30% or more decline in the global polar bear population over the next 35 to 40 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the polar bear a vulnerable species. This charismatic animal is actually not relevant to my doctoral research, which focuses empirically on Arctic regions outside of its range, but as a symbol of Arctic climate change, it conveys the complexity of the problem with powerful conviction.

Polar bears are sometimes seen at some of the sites I visited in West Greenland and Northernmost Iceland. Indeed, “nanoq” is the Greenlandic word for “polar bear.” Most of the photos, however, were taken in regions where polar bears do not live, such as Finnish Lapland, the Arctic sea coast of Northern Norway, and Southern India. This is how I was able to simulate a change in the polar bears’ living environment from icy to ice-free conditions.

To create the illusion of a life-size polar bear in (most of) the photos, I worked with perspective and paid attention to elements of composition such as viewpoint and depth. In the photos, the polar bear figurine is seen mostly alone, but sometimes it is accompanied by other plastic animals or even living things. By placing a small-scale polar bear in the same frame as a large-scale one, even a short distance in depth (15-20 cm) between them helps to create the illusion of life-size polar bears standing far apart, and at a distance from the photographer. In some cases, it looks as if the photos have been taken from a helicopter. Moreover, I used natural elements that exhibit self-similarity, which can cause a confusion of scale and hence help create the illusion. It is quite astonishing, for example, how a pebble can look like a boulder when a tiny plastic animal figurine is placed next to it, or how snow-covered rocks on a fell top can look like a mountain range. Snow and ice too can take self-similar forms.

Photos from the Nanoq exhibition. Photo: Ilona Mettiäinen.

The plastic polar bear figurine has physically traveled to all of the places seen in the photos – it was not added afterwards through image editing software. As such, my artistic work method could also also described as, or has elements of, photoplay.

The main question I have been working with when making the Nanoq exhibition is how to visualize climate change in order to make it knowable and understandable. Through my artistic work, I hope to communicate science and encourage audiences to imagine and discuss possible worlds of the future, and specifically with the Nanoq exhibition, to envision what climate change may mean in practice in the long run. My aim is to encourage people to ask “what if?” In addition to bringing Nanoq – Imag(in)ing Climate Change to new audiences, I hope to make the exhibition more interactive in the future by organizing public engagement events to study the use and co-production of knowledge on climate change.

(Top image: The opening of the exhibition at the Arktikum Science Centre. Photo: Johanna Westerlund, Arctic Centre.)


Ilona Mettiäinen is a researcher at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland. In the winter of 2017, Mettiäinen was a Visiting Arctic Fellow at the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in the US. Mettiäinen is currently finishing an Interdisciplinary PhD at the University of Lapland on the use and co-production of knowledge for planned adaptation to climate change on a regional level. She also lectures on Arctic Human Geography, Sustainable Arctic Tourism, and Collaborative Planning Methods. In December 2015, she represented the Arctic Centre at the Arctic side event of the UNFCCC Paris Climate Conference.

Filed under: Ilona Mettiäinen Tagged: Europe, Photography

About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Opportunity: Commissioned Sustainable Award Piece, Scotland

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

We are seeking an artist to create the award piece for the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award ceremony 2017!

Deadline: Midnight, Friday 14 July 2017

Could you be the maker of the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award?

We’re looking for a Scottish-based artist or maker to experiment with the environmental, social and economic aspects of their work whilst crafting the final piece for a prestigious international award at the world’s largest arts festival.

The award piece can be any shape, form or material. However, it should be a medium or small size and it should reflect the objectives and inspirations of the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award – an initiative that celebrates creative cultural responses to sustainability in production design or content.

Furthermore the award piece should content the following information (as engravings or equivalent):

  • Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award title and logo.
  • The name of the award winner(s) with the title of their production, and the producer and location of the production (if required).
  • A small range of partner logos.

The selected maker will receive:

  • a fee of £250 to include any material used for the creation of the piece
  • an invitation to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award ceremony in August
  • a feature on the Creative Carbon Scotland website (see 2015 and 2016 makers for examples), and promotion through social media channels of the maker, process and physical award piece.

The winner of the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award will be decided on Monday 21st August 2017, and the successful artist or maker must be able to complete the award piece (with the winner’s details) in time for the ceremony on Friday 25th August 2017.

Interested in this opportunity? Please fill in this application form. The deadline for award piece proposals is midnight on 14th July 2017.

Click here for more information about the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award, previous winners, and about other environmental sustainability initiatives at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The award is run by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and Creative Carbon Scotland and is supported PR Print and Design and the New Arts Sponsorship Grants. Have a look through our #GreenFests archive to find out more about the previous winners and shortlisted shows.

For any further questions please contact or call the Creative Carbon Scotland office on 0131 529 7909.

The post Opportunity: Paid Commission for Sustainable Award Piece appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

About Creative Carbon Scotland:

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland