Justin Guariglia, a New York City artist who today launched a partnership with NASA, is obsessed with how humans are changing the planet.
For years, his art has explored the implications of the Anthropocene—the new epoch that the International Geological Congress voted to declare just a few weeks ago, based on the fact that the planet’s land, water, air, and life systems have been so influenced by humans that we have pushed the Earth into a new epoch on the geological time scale. The Holocene, the Earth’s current epoch, has lasted 12,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age.
Guariglia is nothing if not committed. On the day the geologists made their announcement in August, he went out and got a tattoo.
"The tattoo was in commemoration of what the IGC had formalized," he tells Co.Exist. "It’s just another way I’m kind of reminding myself of this issue."
The NASA data on his arm shows a running five year average of the planet’s surface temperature anomaly, from 1880 to 2016. It captures how the Earth’s temperature deviates from historical averages. Since 1970, it is clear that the average is shooting upwards. This is happening on an even smaller scale today: In fact, according to NASA data, every month for the last 11 months has been the warmest month ever in the last 136 years.
That day in August, as he was getting inked, Guariglia was disappointed that the public was not paying more attention to the International Geological Congress decision. It didn’t even make the New York Times, he says.
"It should have been on the front page, the New York Times didn’t put it anywhere," he says. "I was shocked."
Guariglia is getting ready to embark on a new mission with NASA, Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG for short). It that role, it will be his mission to get people to pay attention—and his work won’t look anything like the graph on his arm.
"We’re overwhelmed by data—and data is this thing i’m trying to fight."
Correction: This article formerly referred to Guariglia as an artist-in-residence with NASA, but it is a collaboration, not part of a residency program,
Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it's interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.