“Love Song to the Earth” cover art. Artwork credit: Alisa Singer and Devon Feldmeth

“Love Song to the Earth”: The message behind the cover art

by Alisa Singer, environmental artist

The “Love Song to the Earth” project brought together internationally acclaimed recording artists in a moving display of support for the United Nations’ efforts to address global climate change in advance of the Paris summit. The featured artists include Natasha Bedingfield, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Sean Paul and several others. Everyone involved in the project donated the proceeds to benefit the important climate change work being done by The United Nations Foundation and Friends of the Earth U.S.

I found the Love Song project intriguing, and when the producer and co-creator Jerry Cope asked me to adapt one of my paintings to create the cover for the song I jumped at the opportunity.

As with any exercise in artistic adaptation, the critical challenge for me was reconciling the intellectual and creative impulses that motivated the art with the more immediate and practical purposes for which the art was being used. My climate art is essentially abstract. The concept is to create vivid, striking digital paintings that appear to be random, but are later revealed to be based on a specific chart, graph or map reflecting a key indicator of climate change.

Artwork, “Melting of Arctic Land-based Ice”. Artwork credit: Alisa Singer
Increasing temperatures over the last two decades have caused the melting of mountain glaciers, small ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet. The future rate of melting of land-based ice is a significant factor in determining the amount of future sea level rise. Image credit: Third National Climate Assessment, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, United States Global, Change Research Program, 2014, AMAP, 2011.

Jerry, understandably, wanted to tie the cover art to the song’s lyrics and message. When he suggested adding a globe, and possibly a heart — two decidedly non-abstract images — I readily agreed, but inwardly I had my doubts.

My second concern was that my work is wildly colored. I feared it might not successfully translate to the ethereal, monochromatic imagery conjured by the song’s lyrics, i.e., the earth as a “diamond in the universe” or a “tiny blue marble”. But I was determined to try.

I sent Jerry dozens of images incorporating a heart, a globe or sometimes both, into the abstract pieces. The results ranged from somewhat interesting to bizarre, and even disturbing. I finally got some traction going when I devised the idea of superimposing the graphic portion of the art over an image of the globe. This struck me as a reasonable compromise between the medium and the message.

I sorted through the various paintings in the series to find one best suited for the globe. I considered paintings depicting components of fossil fuels, the rise in sea level, and the global inequity of climate change. I combined the globe with a painting derived from a graph of carbon emissions over the last 1,000 years. The effect was (as aptly described by Devon Feldmeth, the graphic designer with whom I collaborated to finalize the artwork) to make the earth look like it was running a fever, or hooked up to a heart monitor. Both impressions worked for a love song about global warming, and a few images based on this graph almost made it to the finish line.

Download “Love song to the Earth” to help Friends of the Earth fight climate change.

I was very pleased with the art that was ultimately selected because it is based on one of the more important graphs in the series — one that shows how future carbon emissions levels will determine temperature rise. While we cannot avoid the inevitable rise in temperature from carbon already stored in our atmosphere, the graph poignantly illustrates that our action (or failure to act) over the coming decades will be critical in determining whether the impact will be very serious or truly cataclysmic.

Earth’s temperature has risen approximately 1.5 Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. A rise of an additional 3o — 10o degrees is projected by the year 2100, depending on the level of future carbon emissions. Image credit: Third National Climate Assessment, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, United States Global, Change Research Program, 2014 Data from CMIP3, CMIPS and NO.

When “Love Song to the Earth” was finally released by iTunes last September, I was thrilled. The chorus of voices in the song sounded hauntingly beautiful and the imagery in Jerry’s accompanying lyric video was stunning. I was also both bewildered and humbled to see the art featured on various prominent websites, including those of The United Nations Foundation, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Paul McCartney! Still, I was not completely satisfied. The nature of the medium made it impossible to showcase the science behind the art. This seemed like a lost opportunity to enhance both the meaning and the message of the song, not to mention a missed chance to share some important facts about climate change.

I went back to my friend, a video visionary, who had previously created a video that used an interesting morphing technique to demonstrate how my paintings had been created from charts and graphs. I asked him to work his magic on the LTE cover art — to deconstruct it back to its scientific roots. He created this very short video which elegantly dramatizes the process by which science becomes art, art becomes music, and the three combine powerfully to inspire us to act.

Learn more about the “Love Song to the Earth” project and view the lyric video here.

See more of Alisa Singer’s paintings and learn about her non-profit venture that uses art to raise awareness about the science of climate change at Environmental Graphiti.