Growing up surrounded by Colorado's fresh air and mountainous landscape, artist Sarah Wallace Scott's love for the great outdoors blossomed at an early age. But it wasn't until college that she began focusing on sustainability in her work. "You'd spend all this money for these materials, and I would make something to fulfill an assignment, and it was this big, heavy thing that you can't just throw away in the trash," Scott remembers of her first sculpture class. "It just felt so wasteful to me, and I was having a really hard time with it."
The Colorado-based artist studied fine art with a focus on printmaking, and since graduating with her masters from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Scott has been printmaking and sculpting environmentally aware installations. A 2008 project called Your Ice Curtain featured ice sculptures that melted away in real time. It was a piece commenting on global warming, but was also art made out of natural material. Her other work makes use of items like recycled paper, which can be broken down and made into new sculptures.
"I got really caught up in the chemical processes in printmaking, and I felt like a hypocrite," Scott says, noting the guilt she felt in college as an artist using non-sustainable materials. "Here I am trying to make a comment on the environment, and I'm using acids and all these inks and chemicals that are going down the drain, and it really bummed me out. I was having a difficult time with it, honestly. I was having an identity crisis as an artist."
This year, Scott is assembling a collection of installations to host her first solo show. Her aim is to create sculptures that will eventually return to nature and become part of the ecosystem again—a sustainable practice she finds rewarding but frustrating, since she encounters other artists who advocate for environmental issues but don't follow similar eco-conscious practices.
"Plastics definitely bother me, especially when there's a lot of people using different epoxy or things that are going to be around way longer than any of us are on the planet," Scott says. "But as much as I want to get on my soapbox and be like, 'Everybody should be making sustainable work regardless of whether they're in an art-making practice or not,' that's the mental shift that we all need to be making."
That shift is even more important this year, Scott says, with President Trump at the helm of a new administration that either denies human involvement in the escalation of global warming or flat-out refuses to acknowledge its existence. For Scott, much of the focus of her work is trying to introduce viewers to the natural world around them—the same one she grew up admiring in Colorado.
"It's this idea of how do you get someone to care about something that they know nothing about?" Scott says. "That's what we deal with, with everything—with any sort of prejudice. If I create something and I have an intention behind it, all I'm hoping is someone will slow down long enough to notice the differences, or heighten their senses, or have a relationship with the world around them."
Check out more of Sarah Wallace Scott's work and learn about future installations here.