These might look like cute watercolor paintings, but Jill Pelto’s art is based on hard data. Literally—the paintings are constructed around graphs showing climate change data. It's like a deluxe, artisanal Excel chart.
Pelto describes herself as both an artist and a scientist, and her paintings draw on both of these disciplines. In this picture of wildfires gulping up a forest, the line marking the top of the trees is also a graph plotting the global average temperature.
Or what about this painting of a glacier? Its shape follows a graph of glacier mass balance data, and looks a lot better than the dry charts on the subject’s Wikipedia page. Pelto has direct experience of many of the phenomena she is documenting—or at least the past few decades' worth. Her father is a glacier researcher, and she has taken part in research on Washington’s mountain glaciers, Antarctica’s Dry Valleys, and the Falkland Islands.
"To me, it’s really dramatic and it means a lot because it’s something I personally experienced," Pelto told Climate Central’s Brian Kahn. "Seeing signs of climate change that were more evident inspired me to pursue science at the same time as art."
Like any good artist or scientist, Pelto’s goal is communication. "Most of the population doesn’t pay attention to the scientific community and research," she told Kahn. "That’s the group I want to target." And it seems to be working. As a way of getting the message across, these images are a lot more powerful than any PowerPoint presentation.
All Images: Jill Pelto