What Is Ephemeral Art?

Ephemeral art can have several meanings, though they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One type explicitly calls for the use of environmental or natural media. The other calls for materials and compositions that speak to the notion of ephemerality, or time itself.

The first type, that concerning nature and natural media, is described as a genre that combines said natural elements with artistic creativity. As a phenomenon, pieces in this genre are intended to allow the viewer to perceive art and nature working as one, within a single unit of expression. The basic underlying intellectual or conceptual framing of the genre proceeds from an increased awareness of the human relationship with nature and an impulse to work with it rather than in opposition. Some of the common compositional elements found in this branch of ephemeral art are stones, earth, trees and plants.

In a slightly different vein, the other form of ephemeral art calls explicit attention to the idea of the transitory impermanence of life, objects and their arrangement. Examples of ephemeral artifacts, or ephemera, include such diverse things as ancient land art, chalk drawings on a sidewalk or ice sculptures. Buddhist sand mandalas, which are created with the express intention of dismantling them, provide another strong example. G. Augustine Lynas, Daniel Doyle, Niall Magee and Alan Magee (the latter three comprising the collaborative Duthain Dealbh) are further examples of sculptors committed to the use of ephemeral media in their sculpture, particularly in using materials such as snow, ice, sand and even fire. In such a way, artists can directly experience a relationship between themselves, their creations and the passage of time, as the art forms give way to external forces and the fleeting integrity of their constituent components.