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The term environmental art is used in two different contexts: it can be used generally to refer to art dealing with ecological issues and/or the natural, such as the formal, the political, the historical, or the social context.
Depending upon how you look at its definition, earlier examples of environmental art stem from landscape painting and representation. When artists painted onsite they developed a deep connection with the surrounding environment and its weather and brought these close observations into their canvases. John Constable’s sky paintings “most closely represent the sky in nature.” Monet’s London Series also exemplifies the artist’s connection with the environment “For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life, the air and the light, which vary continually for me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere that gives subjects their true value."
It is possible to trace the growth of environmental art as a "movement", beginning in the late 1960s or the 1970s. In its early phases it was most associated with sculpture—especially Site-specific art, Land art and Arte povera—having arisen out of mounting criticism of traditional sculptural forms and practices which were increasingly seen as outmoded and potentially out of harmony with the natural environment.
In October 1968 Robert Smithson organized an exhibition at Dwan Gallery in New York titled Simply “Earthworks”. All of the works posed an explicit challenge to conventional notions of exhibition and sales, in that they were either too large or too unwieldy to be collected; most were represented only by photographs, further emphasizing their resistance to acquisition. For these artists escaping the confines of the gallery and modernist theory was achieved by leaving the cities and going out into the desert.
”They were not depiciting the landscape, but engaging it; their art was not simply of the landscape, but in it as well.” This shift in the late 60’s and 70’s represents an avant garde notion about sculpture, the landscape and our relationship with it. The work challenged the conventional means to create sculpture, but also defied the high art modes of dissemination and exhibition of the work, such as the Dawn Gallery show mentioned earlier. This shift opened up a new space and in doing so expanded the ways in which work was documented and conceptualized. While this earlier work was mostly done in the deserts of the American west, the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s saw works moving into the public landscape. Artists like Robert Morris began engaging county departments and public arts commissions to create works in public spaces such as an abandoned gravel pit. Herbert Bayer used a similar approach and was selected to create his Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks in 1982. The project served functions such as erosion control, a place to serve as a reservoir during high rain periods, and a 2.5 acre park during dry seasons.
The expanding term of environmental art also encompasses the scope of the urban landscape. Just as the earthworks in the deserts of the west grew out of notions of landscape painting, the growth of public art stimulated artists to engage the urban landscape as another environment and also as a platform to engage ideas and concepts about the environment to a larger audience. “Many environmental artists now desire not merely an audience for their work but a public, with whom they can correspond about the meaning and purpose of their art.”
Environmentalism into Art 
In identifying Environmental art, a crucial distinction lies between environmental artists who do not consider the damage to the environment their artwork may incur, and those who intend to cause no harm to nature. Indeed, their work might involve restoring the immediate landscape to a natural state. For example, despite its aesthetic merits, the American artist Robert Smithson’s celebrated sculpture Spiral Jetty (1969) inflicted permanent damage upon the landscape he worked with, using a bulldozer to scrape and cut the land, with the spiral itself impinging upon the lake.
Alan Sonfist, with his first historical Time Landscape sculpture, proposed to New York City in 1965, visible to this day at the corner of Houston and LaGuardia in New York City’s Greenwich Village, introduced the key environmentalist idea of bringing nature back into the urban environment. Today Sonfist is joining forces with the broad enthusiasm for environmental and green issues among public authorities and private citizens to propose a network of such sites across the metropolitan area, which will raise consciousness of the key role that nature will play in the challenges of the 21st century.The sacredness of nature and the natural environment is often evident in the work of Environmental Artists.
Indeed, such criticism was raised against the European sculptor Christo when he temporarily wrapped the coastline at Little Bay, south of Sydney, Australia, in 1969. Conservationists' comments attracted international attention in environmental circles, and lead contemporary artists in the region to re-think the inclinations of Land art and Site-specific art. Chris Drury instituted a work entitled "Medicine Wheel" which was the fruit and result of a daily meditative walk, once a day, for a calendar year. The deliverable of this work was a mandala of mosaiced found objects: nature art as process art.
In comparison, a committed Environmental artist such as the British sculptor Richard Long has for several decades made temporary outdoor sculptural work by rearranging natural materials found on the site, such as rocks, mud and branches, and which will therefore have no lingering detrimental effect. Crop artist Stan Herd shows similar connection with and respect for the land. While leading Environmental artists such as the Dutch sculptor Herman de Vries, the Australian sculptor John Davis and the British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy similarly leave the landscape they have worked with unharmed, and in some cases have in the process of making their work revegetated with appropriate indigenous flora land that had been damaged by human use. In this way the work of art arises out of a sensitivity towards habitat.
Perhaps the most celebrated instance of Environmental art in the late 20th century was 7000 Oaks, an ecological action staged at Documenta during 1982 by Joseph Beuys, in which the artist and his assistants highlighted the condition of the local environment by planting 7000 oak trees throughout and around the city of Kassel. In the last two decades significant environmentally-concerned work has also been made by Rosalie Gascoigne, who fashioned her serene sculptures from rubbish and junk she found discarded in rural areas, Patrice Stellest, who created big installations with junk, but also pertinent items collected around the world and solar energy mechanisms, and John Wolseley, who hikes through remote regions, gathering visual and scientific data, then incorporates visual and other information into complex wall-scale works on paper. Environmental art or Green art by Washington, DC based glass sculptors Erwin Timmers and Alison Sigethy incorporate some of the least recycled building materials; structural glass.
Renewable energy sculpture 
Renewable energy sculpture is another recent development in environmental art. Representing a response to the increasing urgency in the global climate change debates. Generally the practice is evolving in public sculpture and to an extent in experimental architecture. The response is make an explicit intervention at a functional level, merging aesthetical responses with the functional properties of energy generation or saving. Practitioners of this emerging area work to ecologically informed ethical and practical codes that conform to Ecodesign criteria.
As the definition of “”Environmental Art”” can be interpreted in different ways it may be useful to define some categories and examples of artists working in those ways.
Landscape Manipulation 
Intersection of Environment and Human Activity 
Artist as Individual and Relationship to the Land 
Environment as Ecosystem and Socio-Political Realities 
Land as Metaphor or Signifier 
See also 
- Arte povera
- crop art
- Environmental movement
- Environmental sculpture
- Land art
- Land Arts of the American West
- Natural World Museum
- Site-specific art
- Sustainable art
- Teaneck Creek Conservancy
- Urban acupuncture
- John E. Thornes, "A Rough Guide to Environmental Art," Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 33 (2008): 395.
- J. House, Monet: Nature into Art (London: Yale Univ. Press, 1986), 221
- Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, Land and Environmental Art (London: Phaidon Press, 1998), 23
- John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond (New York: Abbeville Press, 1998), 7
- John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond (New York: Abbeville Press, 1998),90
- John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond (New York: Abbeville Press, 1998), 94
- John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond (New York: Abbeville Press, 1998), 127
- Crop Art and Other Earthworks. Stan Herd. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994
- Catalano, Gary (1985). An Intimate Australia : The Landscape & Recent Australian Art. Sydney, NSW: Hale & Iremonger. p. 112p. ISBN 0-86806-126-3.
- Gooding, Mel (2002). Song of the Earth: European Artists and the Landscape. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 167p. ISBN 0-500-51016-4.
- Grande, John (1994). Balance: Art and Nature. London: Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-234-4.
- Grande, John (2004). Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists. New York. ISBN 0-7914-6194-7.
- Kagan, Sacha (2011). Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8376-1803-7.
- Sonfist, Alan (2004). Nature: The End of Art. Florence, Italy: Gli Ori,Dist. Thames & Hudson. p. 280p. ISBN 0-615-12533-6.
- Beardsley, John (1998). Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape. New York: Abbeville Press. p. 192p. ISBN 0-89659-963-9.
- Wallis, Brian (1998). Land and Environmental Art (Themes and Movements). New York: Phaidon. p. 304p. ISBN 0-7148-3514-5.
- Thornes, John E. (2008). "A Rough Guide to Environmental Art". Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 33: 391–411.
- House, John (1986). Monet: Nature into Art. London: Yale Univ. Press. p. 256p. ISBN 0-300-03785-6.
- Wildy, Jade (2011). Shades of Green  (Thesis). Adelaide: University of Adelaide.
- EarthArtists.org - listings of Earth, Land, Environmental and Eco-artists.
- Aspen Institute - Energy and Environment Awards
- List of Environmental Art Definitions
- art + environment
- Some artist examples
- Center for Economic and Environmental Development (CEED) Arts & Environment Initiative
- United Nations Art for the Environment Program
- The Landscape in Art: Nature in the Cross-hairs of an Age-Old Debate crosshairs-of-an-age-old-debate/ Artes Magazine (On line arts journal) 16 November 2010