Going deeper into Weintraubs’ Literature

I have made a decision and taken out the section on Linda Weintraub’s framework in methodology of my thesis and went much more in depths on her writing in the background section.  She is the primary scholar on eco-art that I discuss.  Here is what I wrote:

“One of the primary scholars I have found that writes about eco-art is Linda Weintraub.  She has written multiple books on the topic such as, What’s next : eco materialism and contemporary art (2019), To life! : eco art in pursuit of a sustainable planet (2012), ECOcentric topics : pioneering themes for eco-art (2006), Cycle-logical art : recycling matters for eco-art (2006) and Environmentalities : twenty-two approaches to eco-art (2007) I was considering using her categories of environmental archetypes and approaches to eco-art that she lays out in Environmentalities (2007) to categorize the art I am studying.  However, I have found that she makes a lot of uncited claims and that what she has to say about environmentalism and art is not very insightful and rather surface level.  For instance, there is an entire paragraph on the risks of hydrogen fuel cell technology being used for energy that is completely uncited in Weintraub (2007). This paragraph states,

”Hydrogens horrific potential for destruction erects another formidable barrier against its adoption.  Hydrogen is commonly visualized as a bomb that detonates a huge fireball and then erupts into a mushroom cloud that discharges volleys of lethal radioactive mud.  Hydrogen phobia also stems from the infamous explosions of the Hindenburg passenger Airship in 1937 and space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Few people would choose to expose themselves to this terror; they prefer to purchase fuel at the pump or from the grid” (30)

I am not arguing whether or not this statement is inaccurate, but rather that she does not provide any proof of what she is saying.  Who is “visualizing hydrogen as a bomb? How has she come to the conclusion that “few people would choose to expose themselves to this terror?”  Where did she learn that “hydrogen phobia” stemmed from the Challenger? I see these lengthy unsupported claims continuously in her writing. For her thesis in Weintraub (2012) she says, “By bolstering eco art’s status as the current area’s definitive artistic movement, they are establishing an entirely new set of standards for measuring an artistic masterwork,” (XIV).  Before that she says, “all forty-seven artists represented in this book augment humanity’s prospects for attaining a sustainable future,” (XIV). Both of these claims are extremely hard to prove. Furthermore, as someone who studies eco-art, I do not know that I agree that eco art is our current era’s definitive art movement. While I definitely agree that it is a large and growing genre, most people I have talked to about my research need me to explain what eco-art is, because they had never heard of it or only vaguely.  Furthermore, some of the biggest names in current contemporary art include artists such as Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Banksy, Yayoi Kusama, Richard Serra (just to name a few) who are not working under the guidelines of eco-art. This makes me think it may still be a genre relatively unknown to the public, and only time will tell if it becomes our definitive art movement in the eyes of future generations.

I do not intend to fully discredit Weintraub’s knowledge or the value of her writing.  Her books cover many significant eco-artists and their work and she has a strong fundamental knowledge of environmental movements and terminology, which she defines clearly for her readers who are new to environmental topics and art.  For instance, in Weintraub (2012) she starts her book with graphics showing which genres of art different eco-artists fall into, defining those different art genres, and explaining terms such as ecocentrism, deep ecology, urban ecology, and the difference between preservation and conservations (XII-XXXIV).  She also clearly explains what eco-art is. (3-4). My criticism of Weintraub is to point out an example of what is often missing from scholarship on eco-art.

In general I have found a lack of original scholarship on eco-art that provides new revelations or ideas. A lot of the books on eco-art and environmental art cover a lot of artists but are catalogues more than studies.  For instance, The New Earthwork by Twylene Moyer and Glenn Harper (2011) is a beautifully compilation of in-depth looks at particular eco-artists, essays, and artist interviews.  However, this definitely reads more as a catalogue and would not be considered a study. Land and Environmental Art by Kastner and Wallis (1998) covers approximately 115 artists and 235 works, yet this book would also be considered a catalogue. This study intends to provide research on a topic that explores new dimensions of eco-art not previously explored, involves research on subjects outside of art to support findings, and which is written by someone who has equally studied art and environmental topics.”

Kastner, Jeffrey., and Wallis, Brian. 1998. Land and Environmental Art: Themes and Movements. London: Phaidon Press.

Moyer, Twylene., and Harper, Glenn. 2011.  The New Earthwork : Art, Action, Agency. 1st ed. Perspectives on Contemporary Sculpture ; 4. Bk. Hamilton, NJ : Seattle, WA: ISC Press ; Distributed by University of Washington Press.

Weintraub, Linda., and Schuckmann, Skip. 2006. Cycle-logical Art : Recycling Matters for Eco-art. 1st ed. Avant-guardians. Rhinebeck, NY: Artnow Publications.

Weintraub, Linda. 2006. ECOcentric Topics: Pioneering Themes for Eco-Art. Rhinebeck, NY: Avan-Guardians; Artnow Publications.

Weintraub, Linda. 2007. Environmentalities: Twenty-Two Approaches to Eco-Art. Rhinebeck, NY: Artnow Publications.

Weintraub, Linda. 2012. To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet. London, England: University of California Press.

Weintraub, Linda. 2019. What’s next : Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art. Bristol, UK ; Chicago, IL: Intellect.


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