Climate Change Art in the Virtual Community Art Space

A Project by Art Activism High School Students

Climate Change Art is a virtual Community Art Space exhibition made by students of Robert Bateman Secondary School’s Art Activism Class, and presented in partnership with The Reach Gallery Museum.

The uncertainty of the current health crisis led us to find other ways of sharing this new community-led project online.

Listen to grade 12 student Chiara Pirritano explain why she and her fellow Art Activism classmates chose to make climate change the focus of this initiative.

Help the students from the Art Activism class combat climate change by making a donation to Sierra Club BC. Click here to support Sierra Club BC and when you go to donate, select ‘in honour of’ to write “Robert Bateman Art Activism.”

UPDATE: Due to changing social distancing restrictions, The Reach is now open to the public for limited hours and is able to present highlights of the work from the Art Activism Class in the Community Art Space from June 26 – August 16, 2020.

Check out images of all of the student paintings below, and read their artist statements!

To learn more about The Reach’s Community Art Space program and how to apply for a program spot in 2021, click here.

Brady Cooney

Grade 9

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

 

My art expresses the fact that pollution is killing the world. I painted the earth being dipped into toxic waters as if dissolving into pollution. The air surrounding the planet is damaging, while also holding the earth’s environment from total decay.

Chiara Pirritano

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

 

In this painting, I used acrylic paint to communicate the fear one experiences when thinking about climate change. The anxiety caused by climate change is engulfing, it feels as if humanity is falling into a deadly future. In this painting I have personified industrialization (left) and capitalist politics (right) in the hands featured at the top of the painting. Near the bottom, in a shadowy pit, there are symbols of life before the large hands were in power. This former way of life is damaged by the hands that recklessly threw them out of the way to pursue their own agendas. The dead grass and flowers, along with the poached western black rhinoceros (which has recently gone extinct) are meant to represent the slow death of nature. Additionally, the coloured wheel is known as a medicine wheel, which is a symbol of how western capitalism has tried to overtake and forget Indigenous cultures. In the centre, a human figure is shown being dropped by the hands into the shadowy pit. This figure represents humanity as a whole. If we do not put aside our dependence on capitalism and industrialization, humanity will be lost, similarly to nature.

Emily Wheeler

Grade 11

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

 

Human-induced climate change is the world’s toughest battle, one that is the hardest to overcome. In my piece, I aim to illuminate climate change’s most influential factors: capitalism. With the help of capitalism, factories pollute our air and make the world’s overall temperature rise, which also increases sea levels. I decided to show that in my work.

Esther Tunke

Grade 10

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

Many people are overwhelmed by the idea of facing climate change, and rightfully so. It can feel like a beast of a problem that we, as human beings, have created. My painting depicts my view of this beast and the impending doom being brought to our world by its number one polluter, the oil industry.

I chose to focus on the oil industry as I spent a lot of my childhood in the oilfield hub of Canada: Grande Prairie, Alberta. I have seen some of the effects firsthand, such as deforestation and the destruction of animal habitats. In my painting, the oil industry is personified by a sinister and monstrous wolf who is followed by deathly grey clouds of toxic pollution. Below this beast are the skulls of innocent animals lost in the grey abyss that was once their home.

Fiona Sieber

Grade 11

 

Future in our hands (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

I have a hard time understanding what is happening in the environment right now. It all just sounds too abstract and unreal. If everything discovered through the research on climate change is true, why is nothing happening? I am just a student and I am not even graduating this year. It shouldn’t be on me to deal with this huge topic. Another thing that confuses me is that the government knows the facts. The awareness is there, the information is there, and the understanding is there. So why is nothing happening? It’s probably because no one knows where to start. As we develop a society, the influence we have on our home, the earth, becomes greater and stronger. What we often forget is that, deeply connected to power is responsibility.

In my painting, Future in our hands, I want to show the impact that our daily lives have on our planet. Right now humans are alone with our problems and there is no one else here to help us. I tried to capture the feeling of hope in my artwork. It isn’t too late yet. Small changes can have a big impact – a few dots can change the whole picture. For years we have been warned that the climate system will lose its present equilibrium if we don’t change. With my art I hope to show that the human race has the future of the earth in our hands. We see it burn with our eyes, but we don’t act. This inaction is why we have reached our present state. It is a challenge to deal with such a huge problem and we will have to stay together as one human body to face this challenge. I hope to inspire others with my art and to do my part in helping people understand that we have to act. We don’t need to have everything figured out, but we need to start, because the earth is dying in our hands and we are just watching.

Hannah Cookson

Grade 9

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

In my painting, I’ve chosen to focus on the permanence of global warming. Global climate change is irreversible on a multi-century timescale because of the amount and the lifetime of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. In my artwork, the head of the match represents Earth and the flame represents the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The matchstick represents the earth’s future in our hands. It’s a dark representation of the earth’s future and a look at my understanding of global warming. In short, this painting is a warning against the deflection of environmental responsibility on both individual and societal scales.

Hannah Hickli

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

My artwork takes a critical view of social, political, and economic issues. Referring to climate change, my work explores the varying relationships between popular culture and fine art. The work thus far has used the jaguar to advocate for precious lives, and in the process, point to a problem that society decides to ignore.

Capturing emotion within a painting is everything. It is my inspiration. As a painter, I focus on the eyes to create a sense of emotion. The eyes have a profound quality to transform any being in just a matter of seconds. I strive to convey that sense of emotion by capturing its sincere magic. I painted a reflection of flames into the animal’s eyes, in the hope of making visible what is overlooked. The fires in the Amazon rainforest in 2019 demonstrated the increasing number of threats to many different plant and animal species. By making changes to our way of life, we can slow down climate change and make a difference in the lives of the animal kingdom as well as our own. In the words of Robin Wood: “Destroying nature is destroying life.”

Ingrid Chou

Grade 11

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

My work is related to the harmful effects of air pollution on the earth. This painting was inspired by seeing waste being discharged from a factory. It made me think about how waste gas from factories attacks the earth; it is an enemy of the earth.

In my painting, the two hands holding the earth represent the concern humans feel about our warming planet. However, we know that the hands holding the earth have the power to hurt it as well as heal it.

Through my work, I hope to remind people that climate change is caused by human beings, and we must take responsibility for the improvement of our environment.

Jake Vike

Grade 11

 

Dead Reef (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

Climate change is a serious issue that affects many different environments and aspects of everyday life. My painting focuses on a lesser-known effect of climate change: the impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs. Ocean acidification causes the destruction of coral reefs and harms the ecosystem and marine life that depends on it. This painting contrasts an image of a lively colorful reef and with an image of a dead, bleached reef caused by ocean acidification. This painting illustrates the negative effects climate change has on our beautiful coral reefs and why we need to put in effort to prevent this from continuing to happen.

Jordan Bateman

Grade 9

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

I struggled to find inspiration for this topic. Climate change is broad and consistently controversial, and my job was to balance the two. So while I was staring at a blank page listening to the sound of silence, I decided to create a broad idea for an equally broad subject. Looking at my painting it could mean anything to you, representing the possibility of a dystopian society while also depicting a utopian dream. Even the painting process changed when depicting the difference, the utopian dream was meticulous and hard work, while the dystopian scene was more “Jackson Pollock.” If we ever want to see positive change our world, it will take worthwhile, hard work. But if humans continue to live careless lives, the planet will deteriorate. I chose to depict a stag for several reasons. In fairytales, the stag always seems to represent a means to an end. (I watched Narnia at three am and thought of this.) A stag representing “a means to an end” seems like the best way to describe how we have been destroying the earth, and a bunny wouldn’t have had the same effect. All jokes aside, understanding climate change is incredibly important to how we shape our future, and if you want to think long and hard about my painting listen to the sound of silence and blankly stare.

Kayla Cornwall

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

In Canada, hundreds of endangered species and their habitats are under threat because of the global warming crisis happening now. Without change, our country is at risk of the effects of climate change, including extreme wildfires. When the climate warms, precipitation levels change drastically. This can cause dry areas to become even drier, and more at risk of a wildfire. Not only will our caribou be at risk of extinction, but our entire country could be affected dramatically. I created an acrylic painting depicting the endangered caribou species in Canada, and the forest surrounding it ablaze with wildfires. Below the forest, the lake reflects the harsh red and yellow of the fire, where the caribou stands. I chose to use black as a base for the fire to be painted onto, to create the feeling of destruction that wildfire brings. Along with the background, the caribou is painted black to represent the death of the species rather than life and prosperity. Our country is known for its diversity and beautiful wildlife; without change we could lose the Canada we know.

Linda Mensah

Grade 10

 

The Downfall (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

Our planet, for many years, has been experiencing a change in climate due to human activity. Over the past hundred years there has been an extreme change in our world and this is shown in my piece. The flowers represent how the climate is changing over time and how each stage of the climate downfall is linked. How can we use our education and past knowledge to make our world into something beautiful? The blue flower represents the early days of our planet before our pollution and other man-made activities affected the planet’s jurassic changes. The purple represents the middle stage when human activities started to make a noticeable change on the climate – and people in society started to experience the consequences of the change. The red flower represents our world in its current form. The red shows the climate downfall in our society because the colour red is usually associated with blood and fear. All three flowers are put together to show that, with time and hard work, beauty can come out. Flowers take time to grow into their true form and if we spend more consecutive time on improving our climate and looking at the evidence, we can make our future a beautiful place. The vines show how our actions in the past will always be connected with our uprising and downfall of the future. Everything we do as a community will affect the future and it’s our job to prevent our mistakes from reaching our future selves. In conclusion, it’s always important to focus on the now so there will be a brighter future.

Margarita Fawcett

Grade 11

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

One of the most important things in our world throughout the ages is art, and the conversations an artist tries to start within its borders. With the daunting task of climate change looming over us all, I used my art to try and start another important conversation we can no longer overlook. I teamed up with Isabella O’donnell-Golt to create a piece that maliciously mirrors her peaceful day. Taking inspiration from Claude Monet’s Woman with a Parasol and other landscapes he painted, we created art that would show the horrors we would reap from our beloved Earth, should we continue to drain her of her natural gifts to us.

Isabella O’Donnell-Golt

Grade 11

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

Art has been, and will forever be, an important part of our culture. It represents who we are, what we do, what we want to see, and so much more. Art is a way to represent what one may feel yet not know how to phrase. Above all art is a form of expression. This year we, as students, have decided to express our concerns for our future in this world, directed at the ever-growing issue of climate change. I worked collaboratively with Margarita Fawcett to create a subversive masterpiece (in only my words). We were inspired, style-wise, by the great Claude Monet, and concept-wise by the famous painting Before the Flood by Hieronymous Bosch. Our two paintings are intended to be displayed one above the other. Mine is a look into a perfect world where we all could have lived if we had different choices. Hers, below mine (upside down and mirrored) is a hellscape we might have to live with if we continue with how we live today.

Morgan Lealand

Grade 10

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

Over the past couple decades the world has started to show signs of climate change. It may have started with smaller changes, but these changes have now evolved into serious issues such as flooding entire cities, rapidly melting polar ice caps, as well as many other potentially world-ending issues. The fossil fuel industry is the leading cause of the climate issues that are now being brought up all across the world. While it may be impossible to reverse some of the damage already done, we can prevent future issues by reducing fossil fuel emissions. When our Art Activism class at Robert Bateman Secondary chose to focus on the effects of climate change that will face Canada and our community, I saw this as a perfect time to express my personal fears related to what our community will face if we don’t change our ways.

I decided to create my painting about my fears of flooding and extreme weather patterns. I chose to focus on these issues due to Chilliwack and Abbotsford’s history with flooding, and the changing weather that seems like it goes from being sunny to a downpour within minutes. The location I chose is one that where I, and so many families, have made so many fond memories. These could all be destroyed. I used a dark palette to draw the observer’s eyes to the hand reaching out for help. I used the hand to represent the people of the world reaching out for one another’s help during these dark times. Eventually there will be no one else to help one other. Lastly, while our Art Activism class may not be able to end climate change alone, we do hold our hands wide open to anyone willing to help make a change to better Canada and our community as a whole.

Natasha Zilcosky

Grade 10

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with Girl Guides to visit a turtle conservation centre where I learned about the effects of climate change on Leatherback Sea Turtles. There are many threats that these turtles must face such as predators, water pollution, Coastal construction, and nearby poachers. However, turtles are most gravely affected by the rising temperatures. The gender of each Leatherback turtle is determined by the temperature of their surrounding environment, known as temperature-dependent sex determination. Research from the conservation camp concludes that if a turtle’s eggs incubate below 81.86°F, the turtle hatchlings will be male. If the eggs incubate above 87.8°F, the hatchlings will be female. Due to global warming Costa Rica has been seeing much higher temperatures during their summers and as a result of these rising temperatures, the majority of the eggs being produced are female. With the alarming rate of female turtles, males have rarely been hatching which destroys the balance of species reproduction. To illustrate this problem that I was able to witness firsthand, I selected cool tones surrounding the turtle to symbolize the neutral state of Costa Rica’s ocean. Inside the jar is the turtle; trapped alongside warm tone colors to emphasize the rising heat that these turtles are experiencing.

Nissa Jones

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

With paint, canvas, and time, I created an art piece that reflects the incoming change that potentially threatens our future. Through this art, my objective is to convey the oncoming threat of climate change that will impact our country and our very lives. In my piece, the train symbolizes hazardous climate change and industrialization with all the thick, dense smoke and smog coming from its chimney. Although we could be preventing this, we continue to aid it in our everyday lives, acting as the bridge that guides the train to its next destination at full force. Lying on the train track is a leaf – a maple leaf that is already diseased and suffering. This is Canada in its current state with the changes in climate and pollution. The train headed right for the maple leaf – and viewers themselves – emphasizes that this global emergency will hit us hard. Climate change’s rising temperatures at higher northern latitudes means that Canada is expected to warm more than the global average.

Paige Harder

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

Watching and learning more about the severity of global warming inspired me to create this image of two very different worlds. Humanity hangs in the balance of whether to better the environmental circumstances or to worsen them. I used vibrant colours to accentuate the beauty of the earth as well as contrast it with the dark reality that looms over mankind. Global warming will not disappear and it is a job for the people to work at and aid the healing of our planet.

Riley Remple

Grade 11

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

My painting focuses on melting ice caused by climate change. I wanted to symbolize this specific part of global climate change by painting a polar bear with a sunset. The warm tones of red and orange illustrate the heating conditions in the coldest parts of the globe. My painting also shows the victims of thermal increase, which are mainly polar bears. Their land mass is decreasing by the day and the oceans are rising in response to that, causing more natural disasters. With emissions being pumped out by the minute, this will only make matters worse. This is something that I feel passionate about and my painting hopefully can further exemplify it.

Sophia Houston

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48”

 

Climate change is a very pressing topic that affects all of us, and especially young people. As a youth, myself, I will be impacted by this matter the most and I know it’s important for me to use my voice. In my piece, I use symbols to present the damages of climate change. The miner and the canary reflect how humans used to use these birds to test air quality while miners worked underground. If the birds died or become sick, the miners knew to evacuate the area because canaries are more sensitive to carbon dioxide and other gases that can be toxic to humans. For me, this use of the canary represents the current practice of harming nature for human benefit. In my piece, I painted a miner exuding smoke that begins to cover the birds to represent nature being suffocated by human pollution. I created the main image in black and white and the birds in yellow to further emphasize the importance of our environment. I made the bird looming over the miner’s head the largest in order to signify the huge impact of climate change. In addition, I added more smoke around the larger bird to show that the vast majority of species are heading for danger. In contrast, the smaller bird looks as if it was emerging from the smoke – my way of symbolizing that, with change, we can fix what we have left of our environment. Climate change and air pollution from mass industrialization can harm all creatures, including these beautiful birds.

Taylor Wickens

Grade 12

 

Untitled (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
48” x 36”

 

Before I began this piece, I spent a lot of time researching climate change and how it is affecting the world and essentially, the human race. The estimates and statistics were shocking. I used this knowledge to shape the idea behind my artwork. I challenged myself to create a piece that speaks to society with a clear message and a sense of urgency to inspire action. In my painting, I wanted to draw attention to the future of the next generation, my generation. Climate change has been ignored by society for many years and is now left for the younger generation to deal with. We are the ones who will have to attempt to solve this impossible problem that has been created by people before us. We will have to put out the flame that has already been lit. It has now become our duty to fix our ancestors’ mess. This is what is showcased in my piece; because nothing was done, it is up to the next generation to restore the earth. We need to take back what’s been done and reverse what’s been started. We need to change what we’re doing and solve the problem, before it’s too late.