An eco-artist is one that is concerned about the earth’s environment and may be dealing with ecological issues through his work. Some of these artists use recycled materials to create their art, others up-cycle materials by using them to create sculptures or other forms of art. This process of eco-art began in the 1960’s as a concept of working beyond the white cube, going out into nature and urban areas to create. It began as an experiment to take art away from traditional art centers to the streets. They took it out to the people in the form of “happenings.”
This movement in art was heavily influenced by Joseph Beuys a German artist that had a philosophy of a universal creative component to all of humanity. He participated in performance art and it was a natural platform for his idea that art could be a panacea for humanity. In the 1960’s in an effort to make his art more accessible to the general public rather than to only the rich he created multiples of his sculptures postcards, which were cheaper than unique pieces of art. He created such works as Lemon Light (1969) and Felt Suit (1970); they were multiples.
In 1962 he suggested the cleanup of the Elbe River located in Hamburg, Germany. In 1955 Herbert Bayer had built a grass mound at the Aspen Art Institute in Aspen. Colorado. These and other actions like them are called eco-ventions. There is a list of such artistic actions at http://www.greenmuseum.org/c/ecovention/sect8.html.
They range in time from 1955 to 2002. It is a varied and interesting list.
The Documenta Kassel began in 1955 and starting in 1972 occurs every five years. It means the one hundred day museum. Until this particular exhibition the concept had been to select works because they were novel or had individualistic characteristic. The new concept picked a theme and the works had to depict the theme. Joseph Beuys planted an oak tree during the 1982 inauguration of this exhibition. Thus began the planting of 7000 oak trees. He planted several in various cities.
There is a list of eco-artists and some of their visual art and writings at http://userpages.umbc.edu/~sbradley/projects/rtr_HTBA/project/eco_artists.html This site tells about an eco-art project on recycled billboards in Los Angeles in 2008: http://eco-logicalart.org/.