Ohio artist uses pollution to create artwork

An Ohio artist has found a way to use pollution to create beautiful artwork. Harmful acid pollution from abandoned underground coal mines draining into rivers and streams is a major problem in Ohio and all over America. This pollution is usually in the form of iron oxide which produces some vibrant colors such as deep greens and bright yellows. However, this pollution prevents organisms from thriving and creates a biological dead zone. After noticing the problem, Artist John Sabraw made it his mission to purify these rivers by extracting the pollutants and using them to create pigments that he can use to paint with. On Wednesday, October 4th Sabraw visited Heritage Middle School to show the students how he creates some of his one of a kind works of art.

Photo courtesy of Johnsabraw.com

  Sabraw was invited to Heritage middle school to teach the art students about his technique and his artistic vision. He demonstrated a painting for them and share his goals for conservation.  

  “My dream is to one day have a clean and pollution free planet,” Sabraw explained.
    Sabraw has been an artist his entire life and is an art professor at The Ohio State University. He also has artwork displayed in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Honolulu, and he has been featured in TED and Smithsonian magazine for his conservation efforts and accomplishment in art.

Photo courtesy of Johnsabraw.com

  Sabraw came up with the idea for using the iron oxide pollution to create paintings when he noticed that the rivers polluted by it were biological dead zones, where no organisms could survive. After collaborating with other scientists and artists, such as Guy Riefler, Sabraw was able to create pigments from the iron pollution. These pigments are created by taking the polluted river water to a lab where it is aerated in tanks and treated with chemicals. The iron oxide forms a sludge at the bottom of the tank, which is combined with polymers to form an acrylic paint. Sabraw uses these paints in all of his paintings. 

          He hopes to invite people to the conservation movement by making and selling these paints at a commercial level. To learn more about John Sabraw’s mission you can visit his website at johnsabraw.com. You can also view and purchase his artwork at this address.

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