Coming Storms The Artwork of R Scott Wright

We are all witnesses to change, every minute of every day. Some changes sneak up on us over the course of a lifespan while others have greater impact and happen in the here and now.

Sustainability, carbon footprint, greenhouse gasses, tipping point, mega storms, fire storms, thousand year droughts, shrinking glaciers, thawing tundra, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and Anthropocene, are now in our daily lexicon. The question is, do they have to be? Lightning is often seen as a destructive force, but it also seeds rain with nitrogen, a life-promoting fertilizer. Humanity, too, can be seen as a self-serving and destructive force, but with new scientific discoveries, our intimate knowledge of nature, and our capacity for mindful action, we may yet surprise ourselves.

For over forty years, landscape and our perspectives on it have been R Scott Wright’s primary subject. While human impacts on the natural world have always been central to his work, in these recent paintings he is exploring narrative to share his concerns in a new way via his art. These images take on tragic notes at times, but they are about hope and lessons learned. In this light, he recalls the words by poet Mary Oliver, “Attention is the Beginning of Devotion.”

R Scott Wright. Witness to Change, 2022. Oil and mixed media on poly canvas, 30 x 22“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. Supercell Descending Over the Valley, 2023. Oil on poly canvas and wood panel, 24 x 30“. Image courtesy of the artist.


When I was a kid, I grew up with the forests, mountains, and streams of Connecticut as my playground. I poured over books about first ascents in the Himalayas and first descents to the bottom of Pacific ocean trenches. At that time, the Earth seemed boundless; the moon had only just been marked with human footprints. It’s true that the Cold War loomed over us as we learned to duck and cover under our desks at school. Yet few people I knew actually thought humanity would be crazy enough to instigate mutual self-destruction, or nuclear winter as it was referred to then.

The first time I heard about climate change was in the late 1980s; at that time it was called Global Warming. By the 1990s, scientists figured out that the danger was not from a uniformly warming world, but from a scenario where too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to a greenhouse effect where weather systems would break down chaotically. Some areas of the globe might see cooler temperatures, while others might suddenly scorch. Some regions might see strong storms, micro bursts of rain, and damaging floods, while others might desertify. The biggest predicted change was the melting of the polar ice caps, along with glaciers and the permafrost on the tundra.

A recent Nova documentary entitled Earth from Space put this process in perspective for me as I learned that icebergs sequester large amounts of fresh water, in turn making the oceans around them saltier. These saltier seas slowly sink to the bottom of the ocean, and their descent triggers a life-supporting, continentally scaled conveyor belt-like waterfall of nutrient rich ocean water that undulates and warms and cools as it traverses the globe, loading the food chain and directing the main weather incubators such as the gulfstream. Fresh water from melting icebergs is less dense and does not sink, interfering with the global conveyor belt. The important point here is: if the icebergs melt, the whole system malfunctions.

Superstorm Sandy was a dramatic event for me. It was a devastating climate induced phenomenon that happened in New York on my home turf; in the neighborhoods where I had been living and working. The effects of a changing atmosphere are not going to happen somewhere else – and in the distant future. They are happening here – everywhere, right now. Artists are in a unique position to reach out to people and stir our collective consciousness to the need for action.

R Scott Wright. Water Cycle 1, 2023. Polymer and mixed media on poly canvas and wood panel, 54 1/2 x 66 1/4“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. 400 Parts Per Million, 2016. Oil on poly canvas, 36 x 72“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. Transformations 1, Climate Change Refugees No. 1, 2018. Mixed media on poly canvas mounted on wood panel, 36 1/2 x 54“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. Cloud to Cloud, 2015. Oil and pastel on poly canvas, 52 x 54“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. Tracking West, Superstorm Sandy, 2012. Polymer and mixed media on three wood panels, 30 x 68“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. On the Spring Tide, 2023. Polymer and mixed media on poly canvas, 44 x 108“.
R Scott Wright. Fire and Surge, Climate Change Refugees No. 2, 2018. Polymer and mixed media on poly canvas, 52 x 52“. Image courtesy of the artist.
R Scott Wright. Getaway!, 2016. Oil on poly canvas, 44 x 54”. Image courtesy of the artist.


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