Bonnie Peterson


Artist Statement

The urgency and consequences of climate change motivates my artwork. I examine geophysical climate issues with the goal of promoting a fresh opportunity to consider climate and ethical questions. I stitch words and numerical graphs on silk and velvet fabrics to make narrative embroidered wall hangings and annotated topographic maps.

I design simple explanations for the important principles and difficult modeling scenarios in environmental science, and I use these in my work. Published scientific research and data collection are the foundations for each artwork. I examine and translate the abstract scientific data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), NOAA, NASA, & the European Environment Agency (EEA), to inspire thought for the future and challenge people with and without a scientific background to consider the math and science of climate change. Each work is unique in its approach to science and societal knowledge considerations. A lengthy research and development phase is the foundation for my work. I investigate published scientific research and data collected by earth instruments such as satellites and ocean floats, as well as modeling from climate proxy data such as ice cores.

My curiosity about our earth developed when I walked on Zermatt’s Gorner Glacier as a teenager. Over a lifetime of backpacking, I’ve learned to recognize glacier markings and other glacial remnants. My recent environmental work was initiated by artist-scientist projects. Some of the exciting and rewarding projects in which I’ve participated have been at the University of Wisconsin (Limnology, biology and climate change), National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research (lake chemistry, invasive species, and societal practices), Yosemite National Park (glaciology), Northern Arizona University (Fire ecology at the intersection of extreme fires and societal change), University of Arizona (Dendrochronology) and the mass of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

My current work presents a web of connections among climate variables for a variety of future temperature and emission scenarios using Fahrenheit (1.8 deg) instead of Celsius (at 1 deg). I hope to communicate urgency for the current and future consequences to atmospheric, oceanic, polar and land variables and the dynamic nature of warming.


Bonnie Peterson is a visual artist investigating environmental and social issues using embroidery and maps. Peterson’s personal and political subjects have followed the trajectory of her life experiences from family and human rights issues to outdoor adventures and environmental science. Recent collaborations with scientists on concepts in fire ecology, atmospheric science, permafrost and other geosciences motivate her work. Peterson has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions in the US and abroad including the Museum of American Folk Art, Museum of Design Atlanta, Fresno Art Museum, Yosemite Museum, Notebaert Museum Chicago, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art-Chicago, Berlin Science Week, and Art/NaturSci Pavilion Venice. She is a two-time recipient of Artist Fellowships & two Artist Finalist awards from the Illinois Arts Council, a grant from the Michigan Arts & Culture Council, the Puffin Foundation Ltd, the Illinois Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and other honors. Peterson had four National Park artist residencies. Her work is in public and private collections including the Museum of Art & Design NYC. She has a BS from the University of Illinois-Urbana and an MBA from DePaul University.
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