When it comes to analyzing climate data, we tend to think of graphs and spreadsheets, not vivid watercolors. But Maine-based artist Jill Pelto has discovered a way to communicate scientific information through artwork. Her paintings combine the frightening reality of climate change with a masterful technique in watercolor paintings.
The result is a body of work that grabs attention and stuns—both through its beauty and somewhat sinister source material.
“Art is a uniquely articulate lens: through it I can address environmental concerns to raise awareness and inspire people to take action.”
Jill titles her work “Glaciogenic Art.” Her website states, “Scientific research and data fuel the content of my artwork. I create pieces to raise awareness [for] interesting and important environmental topics.” This is clear to those who examine her work. Pelto continues, “Art is a uniquely articulate lens: through it I can address environmental concerns to raise awareness and inspire people to take action.”
Climate change has been present in Pelto’s life since childhood. According to Climatechange.org, her father, Mauri Pelto, worked as a glacier researcher in Washington’s North Cascades for several years. The glaciers in this area are melting rapidly, and the increase of rain (rather than snow), is only making matters worse.
Summer trips to the region have been a family affair since Jill was in high school and they’re what piqued her interest in making climate impacts clear.
“To me it’s really dramatic and it means a lot because it’s something I personally experienced,” she said. “Seeing signs of climate change that were more evident inspired me to pursue science at the same time as art.”
Of course, that doesn’t limit the topics in Pelto’s portfolio. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and endangered species are among the topics explored. In the painting below, Pelto illustrates how rising temperatures are leading to an increased rate in wildfires. You can see the global average temperature between the flames and the forest.
All of the paintings raise a haunting thoughts: Despite the beauty of Pelto’s work, they’re illustrating massive amounts of destruction.
For the future, Pelto plans on exploring the decline of eastern Canadian caribou, a species facing increasingly low numbers. She’s also interested in working with more scientists who have an interest in turning their data into artwork. It shouldn’t be a problem; Pelto’s ability to transform frightening facts into breathtaking images is quite clear.
She’ll also be able to transform her own research into art. This fall, Pelto will begin the earth science Master’s program at the University of Maine. For the sake of staying informed, we’ll be sure to stay tuned.
To see more of Pelto’s work, visit jillpelto.com.
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com.