Beyond the Waste Land

Contemporary artists portray the post-consumer world

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (2013) by Chester ArnoldArt Works for Change

Post-consumer waste is transforming the world around us

In this exhibit by Art Works for Change, thirteen contemporary artists consider the aftermath of human consumption. Through their work, we can visualize the impact of post-consumer waste on the environment and discover opportunities to make more sustainable choices.

Cell phone chargers, Atlanta, 2004 (2004) by Chris JordanArt Works for Change

Chris Jordan transforms piles of discarded products into seductive abstractions, whose beauty is at odds with the reality that their disposal will consume resources and propel a residual waste stream into landfills, wastewater plants and the atmosphere.

Stars 'n Tarnation (2013) by Scott GreeneArt Works for Change

Scott Greene portrays the suffering of humanity at the hands of a ubiquitous environmental affliction — the wayward plastic grocery bag.

Camel Gastrolith (2016) by Chris JordanArt Works for Change

In this video, Chris Jordan presents us with the unaltered stomach contents of a camel that has died from consuming plastic bags — a disturbing reminder that our trash can be deadly to our fellow creatures.

Too Too Much Much (2010) by Thomas HirschhornArt Works for Change

In his installation entitled "Too Too Much Much," Thomas Hirschhorn evokes the excess of human consumption by inundating a museum space with thousands of discarded aluminum cans and larger-than-life symbols of our single-serving habits.

Entropic Landscape (1999) by Chester ArnoldArt Works for Change

Chester Arnold transports us to the surreal landscape of a tire dump. There are some tire stockpiles so large that they can be seen from space.

Eames Lounger (from the Modern Ruins (Popular Cannibals) installation) (2014) by Stephanie SyjucoArt Works for Change

Stephanie Syjuco used scavenged materials from a municipal dump to recreate iconic modernist furniture. The works speak to the shoddy materials and processes used to produce affordable modern furniture, the fleeting life of which often ends at the dump.

Follow the Leader (2011) by Guerra de la PazArt Works for Change

Guerra de la Paz present a colorful procession of figures weaving blindly through the gallery like a flock of thrift-store sheep. Are these figures a symbol of misguided consumer choices or an invitation to step out of line and resist the allure of fast fashion?

Burial Mound (2015) by Al GrumetArt Works for Change

Al Grumet transforms images of trash and appropriated images of product advertising into a depiction of the unrelenting growth of landfills worldwide.

Life of Objects (2013) by Mary MattinglyArt Works for Change

In photographic works that are both performative and documentary, Mary Mattingly grapples with her personal footprint. She binds her possessions into "boulders" and engages in physical struggles to wield them.

Recycling Yard #6, Seattle, 2004 (2004) by Chris JordanArt Works for Change

The pursuit of sustainability

Our consumption choices often create waste streams that must be absorbed by the environment or processed using energy, water and other resources. We can reduce our collective impact by consuming less, choosing products that generate less waste, and recycling whenever possible.  

Maple Flapper Jumper (2011) by Nicole DextrasArt Works for Change

Nicole Dextras creates highly-detailed, couture garments from leaves, flowers, thorns and other compostable plant materials. These ephemeral works celebrate sustainability and highlight our essential connection to nature.

Mycotecture (2016) by Phil RossArt Works for Change

Mycologist Phil Ross uses the root-like fibers of mushrooms as an innovative building material. These fibers, known as mycelium, can be grown and formed into any shape. When dried, mycelium is stronger, pound for pound, than concrete and resistant to water, mold, and fire. Mycelium is also organic and compostable — an ideal building block for a nature-friendly economy.

Floating a Boulder (2012) by Mary MattinglyArt Works for Change

Consumer waste poses a grave threat to our environment, but we can reduce our impact by making thoughtful choices. We can divert waste from landfills by recycling and composting, and by choosing sustainable products and packaging. Learn more about how you can effect change in our online guide, and get inspired to defend the natural world by viewing more artwork from our exhibition entitled "Footing the Bill: Art and Our Ecological Footprint".

Credits: Story

This exhibit is a selection of works from "Footing the Bill: Art and Our Ecological Footprint", an online exhibition created in partnership with Earth Day Network, Global Footprint Network, Oceana, NRDC, and other leading environmental organizations. The work of Phil Ross is featured in "Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience", a traveling museum exhibition that explores adaptable and sustainable housing in the age of climate change. For more information, please contact us at or visit us at

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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