A Maine artist learns, through trial and error, to use art to communicate about climate change

CANTON — For most of Laurie Sproul’s career as an artist, she created art for art’s sake. Over the last 20 years, Sproul has been carving finely detailed flowers from large blocks of wood, often driving to Portland to buy beautifully grained woods shipped north from Virginia.

But five years ago, Sproul decided to try something a little different. Deeply concerned about what she was learning about the impending effects of climate change, Sproul was desperate to address the issue in whatever way she could. Naturally, she began with her art.

“I started getting more involved in speaking out and playing a role in society so it started reflecting through my art,” Sproul said in an interview Sunday. “Realizing it wasn’t just a sunflower, it was nature is awesome, now it’s in trouble, now we have to do something about it. So it became more the art was a means to an end rather than an end itself.”

By her own admission, Sproul’s first attempts to incorporate messaging into her art were not terribly subtle. One of her first pieces, titled ‘Your Move,’ depicted a bleeding heart wrapped with a black chain representing carbon. Over time, however, and through her involvement with a climate advocacy group called the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sproul’s approach to using art as a means of communication has become more nuanced and, Sproul believes, more effective.

While much of her art still focuses on the beauty and richness of nature, and what we stand to lose if we fail to protect the environment, Sproul has also begun using new types of imagery to describe some of the realities of climate change. In recent shows she has put on with Winslow artist Jean Ann Pollard, who also uses her artwork for climate activism, Sproul included two series of shrinking wooden discs with contrasting messages about climate, One series, called ‘The North Pole,” depicts the melting of the Arctic ice cap. The other, titled ‘Lifeline,” is made up of discs marked with…

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