Eco-art isn’t only about what we can create out of recycled cans and bottles, or – here in Connecticut – what type of monster we can make out of traffic cones. This week, though, I am featuring an artist who focuses a bit more on the message of his work rather than the specific medium. Artist Craig Tilley, who runs http://grapevinewall.com, uses his art to spur conversations about sustainability and, hopefully, provoke reflection on our impact on the environment. A Southern-born artist, Craig cites inspirations such as his mom and dad for the values they instilled in him, as well as their entrepreneurial spirit. Craig boils down his passion for sustainability and saving the environment to, very simply, a compassion for others. In a lot of ways, sustainability efforts can be just that simple: When we’re saving the environment, we’re helping everyone, because we all must live here. Knowing this side of Craig helps to better understand his role in eco-art. Craig is based in Georgia and is a full-time artist and designer, specializing in branding and web design. He started an organization, called Rally Earth, to help clean energy companies with their creative and marketing needs. While he has only been creating art professionally for the last two years, he has accomplished so much. One notable event Craig participated in was “The People’s Climate March” in New York City on Sept 21, 2014. If you haven’t heard of this event, it was an extremely successful march to advocate global action against climate change. A wrap-up video of the event can be found here to gives you an idea of just how big this event was. In fact, in NYC, over 300,000 people attended.
While at this event, Craig was able to get former Vice President and climate activist Al Gore to participate in his Grapevine Wall project. Gore drew a line on the digital canvas Craig uses to create the grapevine art. After five other leaders drew lines, Craig had enough to transform six very simple lines into a robust piece of art. There is something to be said for the way in which Craig is creating art, as it relates to sustainability. Craig uses a digital canvas – an iPad – to create his pieces, each of which is designed by a group of co-creators’ lines or by extending lines from other pieces (called vines). The vines are printed on any type of medium and can be separate or merged together. The entire wall joins together and can be zoomed in to find interesting “Easter eggs,” which are part of the single vine story or the entire story of the wall. So, why is this good for the environment? Well, for starters, there is less waste. Products designed digitally can be printed “on-demand.” A lot of companies like redbubble have a similar model. Designs can be created, and then products are produced as they are ordered. No need for keeping around large stocks of items that may or may not be purchased. Craig has some great perspectives on eco-art, and I’m not sure I could have said this better myself. He told me his favorite quote is from Bertolt Brecht: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” Craig says humanity is becoming more aware of meaning and purpose, and eco-art will most certainly be at the forefront of this movement. While art collectors in the past were all about the artists themselves, Craig believes the collectors of the future will be more inspired by the message. One thought Craig expressed, and one I know most of us here at RecycleNation.com are going to be happy to hear, is he believes renewable energy and recycling efforts are winning together as the world begins to become more aware of our effects on the environment. What he feels the world needs to have is a longer range of vision. We must understand and accept our actions now should be performed for the long term – not our very short-term personal existence. In the case of how we produce and use energy and products, we must see how becoming sustainable is not just good for the environment but for the economy as well. Craig said those countries and companies that avoid this change will most certainly suffer in the long run. I’ll piggyback on Craig’s great quote with a quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [people] to do nothing.” As long as people like Craig Tilley and individuals, like those who follow RecycleNation, continue to help with sustainable efforts, do their part when it comes to recycling or even something as simple as not using disposable plastic water bottles, then we are all helping to make the world a better place. For those of you who have not yet checked out Craig’s artwork, I encourage you to do so. Even if you’re not a sustainability devotee, this art is very impressive, especially considering Craig is legally blind. He was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease almost 20 years ago, but he continues to push through and find ways to work through the limitations of this degenerative disease. See for yourself at any of the following places around the web: