Artists And The Environment

Throughout history, art has had the power to spark intellectual debate and cause society to question itself. From Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Andy Warhol’s serigraphs documenting the race riots of the 1960s to Jenny Saville’s work commenting on the female body and societal expectations of it, one purpose of art is to connect the artist’s thoughts with the outside world through aesthetics. We love the idea of art with a deeper message. Many of the artists that ZIA Gallery represents are greatly concerned with the state of our world ecological policies and practices, and seek to influence their audiences to be more aware of this widening crisis.


Clyde Butcher has fled to nature in times of distress.

Moon Rise

He views his time spent in the wild swamps of Florida’s Everglades as a spiritual experience that has provided a sanctuary from life’s troubles. It is for this reason that Butcher has become an advocate for the environment. Butcher photographs the intricacy and beauty of these untouched areas of landscape, voicing a desire to spread awareness about their fragile ecosystems. He has won numerous awards for his efforts, including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Conservation Award, which honors artists who not only display excellence in photography, but contribute to public awareness of the environment. Butcher has also hosted, starred in, and been featured in numerous nature documentaries about the aquatic preserves and estuaries in Florida.    Living on 13 acres of swampland, surrounded by wild alligators and rare orchids, Butcher sees the decimation of our nation’s swamps firsthand as excess water flushed out from the north carries pesticides and nutrients that cause strange flora to grow. These non-native plants devour oxygen, killing the fish and filling the once-clear water with tangles of foreign vegetation and little else (Smith). Butcher works tirelessly to expose the magnificence and vulnerability of these endangered waters, both through his photography and by lending his voice to numerous television and documentary appearances, first in 1985 with Peter Jennings on ABC. His collaborates with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and has published several books focusing on the Everglades and ecological preservation in Florida.


Melissa Jay Craig works primarily in sculpture made from handmade paper.  She uses fibers that she processes (and sometimes harvests) herself, specifically because of the minimal environmental impact that results from this method. She is interested in biology- plants, fungi, living organisms, and messages from the planet delivered through nature. She finds shamanistic spiritual beliefs interesting because most of these beliefs embody a modern-day environmentalist viewpoint. She is fascinated by the results of global environmental change, and her work often comments on the subject.


Marc Dimov’s photography is a comment on our relationship with the Earth.

Gray Trigger Fish 20 x 30 limited edition of 10

He is concerned with the rampant use of natural resources, whether it be land use, pollution, water, or sustainable fishing practices. He views the decimation of our oceans as a moral concern, an epidemic that will inevitably alter the way that we live and rely on the food that the ocean provides us. Dimov hopes that his photographs will create a dialogue about the way we live and urge people to question their choices.


Karina Hean was born and raised on Chesapeake Bay in Mayo, Maryland. Much of her childhood was spent fishing, crabbing, exploring, and swimming in the ocean.

Field Notes I 11 x 17

As a result of this, she is an advocate for the fragile and endangered underwater world. An early connection to the natural world, environmentalism and stewardship has provided Hean with an avenue to connect her work with her interests. She now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her connection to and inspiration from nature has shifted from the ocean to the deserts, canyons, and mountains of the southwest.  When discussing her work, Hean reveals that her drawings are visual representations of both the pleasure she derives from spending time outdoors and her reaction to the human relationship with the environment. She comments on the changeable qualities of our ecology and humankind’s naturally influential relationship with our natural environment by drawing organic masses supported or bracketed by external structures. She is interested in the way we change the physical world to better suit our human needs. Hean describes nature as having two roles- the “divine, ineffable entitity characterized by change and omnipotence to which we belong and as a measurable, predictable resource capable of passive utilization that we comprehend and control.”


John Vlahakis has always had a keen interest in protecting the environment.

Dead Coneflower 15 x 15 limited edition of 5

His work stems from a desire to create a dialogue about our place in society and the responsibility we have to protect our natural treasures. His photographs, the subject of which generally consist of living organisms, capture the innate beauty and drama of the natural world that we as humans have access to. They are a comment on human existence and the effect that we have on the world.

ZIA Gallery strives to serve multiple roles within the art world- including representing artists whose work responds to some aspect of contemporary global issues, all the while maintaining the utmost level of aesthetic appeal and creativity. We hope that the artwork on display at ZIA Gallery causes our audience to ponder important questions about our world and the way in which we inhabit it.

By Shannon Gallagher, MAM

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