Environment refers to the circumstances, surroundings, or conditions in which we exist—natural, built, or social. The natural environment—specifically the interactions between all living species, both flora and fauna; the climate; and earthly resources—is unquestionably essential to the health and longevity of human beings. Our well-being depends on the strength and vigor of all existing physical, chemical, and biotic elements, for which we are ultimately responsible.

Explore art about the environment by clicking on the images above and browsing the content below.

Explore collection stories—texts, videos, and creative responses from faculty, students, artists, scholars, and curators to works in the Tang collection.

Tang Museum Collection: Student Response

On this delicately carved and pearly white sculpture, a parade of elephants makes their way in pairs across a curved base, which echoes both a hilly landscape and the form of an elephant’s tusk, from which the object is made. The ten, tiny elephants appear to march towards a snake, whose curved body creates tiny arches on the tusk’s wider end. Trailing behind and at the tusk’s opposite end is a small fish, whose form sinks into the ivory ground. While we know little about the artist, precise geographic origins of this work, and when it was made, it is undeniable that—like all the ivory carvings in the Tang’s collection and other museum collections—this is a controversial object. While it is art historically important and aesthetically striking, any pleasure that viewers might have when studying its form should be tempered when considering the origin of this rich, precious, soft white material. A response is shaped by not only the recognition that the sheer existence of this work is premised on the death of an elephant, but also from the knowledge that the current day market for ivory has become poisoned with greed.
In Visiting Assistant Professor of English Maude Emerson’s “EN105: Imagining Earth in the 21st Century,” students took an interdisciplinary look at the Anthropocene, which included examining and discussing photographs in the Tang collection.
Tang Collective Catalogs are short written responses from a multiplicity of voices responding to objects in the Tang Teaching Museum collection.
A dark, metallic sculpture of a birds-eye view of a farm with a silo and barn near the top of the sculpture and trees surrounding a field on the bottom.
Rachel Seligman, Tang Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs & Malloy Curator
June 12, 2020
I’m working on an exhibition right now for fall 2020 that focuses on the issues and challenges women in the U.S. have faced in politics and society over the last 100 years. The show gathers 100 artworks by a diverse group of 100 woman and non-binary artists working in various mediums. The exhibition manifests a plurality of women’s experiences, views, and modes of expression.
One of the works in the show is Syd Carpenter’s Ellis and Anna Mae Thomas (2009–2010), from the series Places of Our Own. Syd Carpenter, a gardener herself, explores the history and contemporary practices of Black gardeners and farmers by transforming maps like the one of Ellis and Anna Mae’s property into relief sculptures full of movement and energy, that embody, as Carpenter has said, “what a flat form looks like when it inhales.”
Carpenter’s work reminds us of the reality of farming history: skilled Black men and women have worked the soil of this country, especially in the South and West, for generations, both as laborers and as innovators. In Leah Penniman’s book Farming While Black, she acknowledges how out of place she felt in the white-dominated agricultural community, and how immensely restorative it was to learn the true history of Black farming: that organic farming techniques are an indigenous African system revived in the U.S. by Dr. George Washington Carver; that Dr. Booker T. Whatley of Tuskegee University helped invent Community-Supported Agriculture; that Black farmers have been creating land trusts and cooperative farms in the U.S. for over 100 years.
In the composition of this sculpture, forms suggest an aerial view of the farm, but also a human figure composed of fields and roads and trees, reinforcing the conceptual connection between African Americans and farming. This link is far more expansive than a history of enslaved bodies doing labor, and is instead a wide-ranging, essential notion of land as key to agency, creativity, and justice. 

Additional Resources

Browse the Lucy Scribner Library Research Guides on:

Environmental Studies
Public Health

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