Janet Culbertson

Artist Biography

After growing up in rural western Pennsylvania, I attended Carnegie Mellon University to study art. In 1954, I moved to New York City to earn my Master’s Degree at NYU which enabled me to teach art at Pace University and Pratt Institute. My first exhibit, Elegy to Nature, was in New York City in 1967. This exhibit was inspired by the pollution of the Pennsylvania mines and the devastating oil spill of the Torrey Canyon. In the 1970s, I had 4 one woman shows, received a C.A.P.S. New York state graphics award, and wrote on ecotage for Heresies.

Later I traveled extensively, painting the dark volcanic islands of the Galapagos, the fierce beauty of the Grand Canyon, the extraordinary animals of Africa and the subtle waters of Long Island. These travels inspired my series of Billboard paintings that depict the rampant destruction of our wildest landscapes.

Grants from The Pollack-Krasner Foundation, The Vogelstein, and The Puffin Foundation enabled me to publish several catalogs and exhibit my Mythmaker series of 20 drawings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. where they remain in their permanent collection. Additional works are in the permanent collections of The National Academy of Sciences, Telfair Museums, Guild Hall, The Fogg Art Museum, The Hunterdon, The Islip Museum, The Long Island Museum, and The Heckscher Museum.

I have exhibited ecowork in solo shows at the Museo de los Ninos in Costa Rica and the Accola-Griefen Gallery in New York City and I was part of Earth SOS at The Flomenhaft Gallery and Earth, Fire, Water, Air at Connecticut State University. I was honored with a 40-year retrospective, Paradise Lost, at The Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in 2014. Recently, I was chosen for the Artists Choose Artists exhibit and as a Pecha Kucha speaker at the Parrish Art Museum.


As an Eco-Feminist and Political artist for over 50 years, I have painted many aspects of nature: the dark volcanic islands of the Galapagos, the fierce beauty of the Grand Canyon, the incredible vanishing animals of Africa, and the degradation of the earth’s once wild places. I painted my nightmarish vision, Tanker in the Grand Canyon, after a rafting trip down the Colorado River. I witnessed engineers taking measurements of the canyon to prepare for commercial exploration. Our parks are a national treasure and pointing out their vulnerability became one of my missions as an artist.

In 1967, my first New York City exhibit was called “Elegy to Nature.” Since then my paintings have been focused on rampant growth, global warming, and industrialization. The more I traveled, the more I witnessed Nature’s changes and my art evolved from pristine scenic views to more realistic and surreal portraits of a dying planet.

In true George Orwellian doublespeak, industry calls its sites “parks,” clear cutting “making open space,” and killing “harvesting.” Orwell inspired me with his determined fatalism and Rachel Carson motivated me with her scientific truths about the climate crisis. Both solidified my commitment as an environmental painter.

In my art I source ideas from world news and choose materials that depict the range of beauty and destruction in nature. My painting Warming depicts an apocalyptic break in the earth’s crust as lava seeps forth and The Wasteland underscores the devastation of our once lush landscapes. Iridescent pigments recreate the surreal glow of pollution. Heavy, thick oils and collage detritus create a tactile and layered expression of the earth’s changing landscape and waterways.

I feel art can inspire future generations to be better stewards of the earth and her creatures and I hope to provoke awareness and positive action through my work.


EARTH ARTISTS AS ACTIVIST exhibit at the Southampton Art Center postponed!

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Over a dozen environmental artists were chosen for the EARTH: ARTISTS AS ACTIVISTS exhibit which has been rescheduled for April 2021 once the earth has healed! [For more information got to www.southamptonartscenter.org or www.janetculbertson.com]

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