Kinetic sculptor Anthony Howe probably doesn’t consider himself a “climate change artist”. But as of today, I have officially added his name to the growing list of international artists showcased on this blog whose work inspires others to take action on climate change. Or, perhaps more importantly, whose work inspires others to have hope for the future.
Howe’s psychedelic wind sculptures do exactly that, at least for me.
Disclaimer: I am hopelessly passionate about the wind. As the daughter of an architect who collected wind chimes, I make a living photographing wind energy construction projects. Must have been a bird or a kite in my previous life.
You could say I’ve been seduced, hypnotized: I find myself returning almost daily for my fix, witnessing again and again that fluid, fleeting moment when the tips of the 16 blades almost kiss in the center before the wind gently pulls them apart, only to repeat itself… forever.
Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. Among the 10,000+ YouTube viewers, someone left this remark: “I swear it is so mesmerizing I could sit and watch it all day.”
To create such delicate, rhythmic, harmonious sculptures, Howe must also be an expert mechanic, welder, sheet metal worker, engineer, and electrician (to repair his many electric tools). Just take a look at his studio on Orkas Island near the Canadian-American border in northwest Washington State: my father would have been so happy there.
I too am surrounded by mechanics, welders, sheet metal workers, engineers and electricians on the many construction sites where I photograph wind turbines. I search for beauty in these mechanical and industrial landscapes, inspired by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. My goal is to try to create a sense of awe about wind energy, to inspire others with the beauty and majesty of wind energy in order that some may embrace renewables as one of the many solutions to climate change.
I am quite sure that Howe’s artistic goals are different than mine. However, even though his kinetic sculptures do not generate electricity like wind turbines, they all take advantage of the wind’s mechanical energy. So from my perspective, you will allow me the luxury of imagining a day when one of Howe’s kinetic sculptures will inspire a young engineer to design a different kind of wind turbine – like this wind tree – that everyone will want to install right in their own front yards. Should that day ever come, well then, we would be one step closer to reducing our addiction to fossil fuels.
That’s why I’d like to call Anthony Howe a “climate change artist”. Perhaps it’s time to enlarge the definition of “climate change artist”, to focus less on objectives of the artist, and more on the impact of his or her art on global audiences in terms of inspiring creative solutions to climate change.
To finish, I share with you a wonderful quote by the poet-economist Joseph Robertson: “The amount of energy trapped in hydrocarbon molecules deep underground is miniscule in comparison to the amount of solar energy that lands on the surface of the Earth and the resulting kinetic energy that moves around our planet all day, every day.”
Thanks Mr. Howe, for your wonderful kinetic gift.
Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like. Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram.