Jill Pelto: Creating “glaciogenic art” based on climate change data

Artist and scientist Jill Pelto is constructing new ways to communicate science through art, covering both positive and negative issues that depict the reality of the current ecosystem.

The artist, who graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in earth science and studio art, creates paintings based on graphs of data on the environmental effects of climate change – including glacial melt, animal populations and forest fires. Each set focuses on the ways that climate change has affected these aspects of the environment.

Working mainly with watercolour, Jill Pelto’s artworks merge the artistic with the scientific seamlessly. On first glance of her art, you see vivid imagery of nature and wildlife in its current state. Then on closer inspection, you can see jagged line graphs as if the artist has sketched in a science exercise book.

One piece shows glaciers and water rendered in shades of blue. The peaks of each glacier reach toward the middle of the composition, becoming points on a graph. Other pieces make the melding of visuals and data more obvious. In an illustration of wolves near icy white glaciers, the peaks of the masses of ice are punctuated with dark dots that signify data points.

Jill Pelto says: “My love of the wilderness and goal to inspire people to preserve it drives me to use creativity to communicate information about important environmental topics with a broad audience. I want science to be communicated in as many diverse ways as possible in order to reach broader audiences. I hope both to inform people about these topics, and to motivate them to take action, or even just spend more time outdoors.

“Thus far, I have conducted research on the mountain glaciers of Washington and British Columbia, in the Dry Valleys and Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica, over the rolling hills and carved cirques of the Falkland Islands, and around the aqua lakes and ochre mountains of New Zealand. I make art inspired by all of these experiences.”

Images: © Jill Pelto

Jill Pelto

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea


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