Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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First Comes the Heart, Then Comes the Action

Robert Bateman

This article was originally published in
Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, 2 February 2016


ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT is a traveling museum exhibition the purpose of which is 1.) to recognize, document, and share the work of leading contemporary artists who chose to focus their work on global as well as local environmental issues; and 2.) to heighten public awareness and concern about the degradation of diverse environments through the power of art. Traditional art generally depicts nature in all of its glory, often in beautiful, pristine conditions. The 75 paintings, photographs, prints, installations, and sculptures in ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT are different than traditional works of art because they deal with ominous environmental issues and implications ranging from industrial scale resource consumption and development, to oil spills, the perils of nuclear energy, global warming, and many other phenomenon that impact and inflict people and other inhabitants which populate the planet today. To produce ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, Curator David Wagner draws upon a diverse range of artists whose works are not only hard-hitting, but which also propel the Environmental Movement in the modern age we live in.

Robert Bateman Carmanah Contrasts | 1989, Acrylic on Canvas, 40x45  © Robert Bateman. | Currently on display in Environmental Impact. Click on the image to view in larger format.

To anyone paying attention it is obvious that impact of humanity on nature is destructive in many ways. Since we are part of nature, it is equally obvious that those destructive impacts are also destructive for mankind. Nevertheless I have hopes that we can modify our practices in order to improve the situation. The first four words in the paragraph are key: to anyone paying attention.

This is where art and artists come in. Unlike fantasy and fun and games, art of the real world, of nature can do two things. First, it can draw attention to the beauty and complexity of nature. It can also draw attention to the negative impacts.

Robert Bateman Driftnet (Pacific White-sided Dolphin & Lysan Albatross) | 1993, Acrylic on Canvas, 36×36 © Robert Bateman | Currently on display in Environmental Impact. Click on the image to view in larger format.

Robert Bateman Wildlife Images | 1989, Acrylic on Canvas, 40×45 © Robert Bateman | Currently on display in Environmental Impact. Click on the image to view in larger format.

Robert Bateman Vancouver Island Elegy | 1989, Acrylic on Canvas, 42×46.5 © Robert Bateman | Currently on display in Environmental Impact. Click on the image to view in larger format.

I hasten to say that I include all forms of the arts. Certainly writings are important but in the visual arts photography and movies must be considered as well as drawing and painting. Painting is my choice and I use it to celebrate the beauty and complexity of nature. I also sometimes depict some of the destruction mankind brings to the natural world. If I had a goal it could be summed up by the words of Willa Cather:

What is any art but an effort to make a sheath or a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself … life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop and too sweet to lose?

There is another quote by an American woman, Georgia O’Keeffe: “Nobody sees a flower really, it takes time.  Like to have a friend takes time.” My style involves making friends and taking time with birds, mammals and habitat. Although it is often a struggle to capture the moment, it is worth taking time to make friends with my subject matter.

If artists can encourage the general public to make friends with nature, its heart will be moved to protect it. First comes the heart then comes the action in terms of votes and dollars.


The paintings by Robert Bateman published in this page are currently on national tour in the traveling museum exhibition, Environmental Impact. Now living on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Bateman is not only a talented artist, but also a naturalist who devotes much of his time and effort to environmental concerns, especially the preservation of the natural habitats of the birds and animals he portrays so beautifully in his art. This consuming interest in the environment, its diversity and its fragility is reflected in the landscape settings in which Bateman places his subjects.

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"The biggest challenge of the day is:
how to bring about a revolution of the heart,
a revolution that has to start with each one of us."

Dorothy Day (1898-1980)


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