Making Art Out of Air

While most of us think of smog as decidedly unsightly, artist Kim Abeles uses particulate matter from air pollution to create artistic images on various surfaces. In the late 1980s, in protest to a factory that was emitting pollution near her home, Abeles affixed stenciled images on adhesive-coated ceramic or fabric and then put them on the roof of her studio for several days or weeks. Once the stencils were removed, the images were revealed in smog particulate. Her 1987 work, Smog Collectors, gained international attention and the support of environmental advocacy groups including the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). Abeles recently reflected, “The Smog Collectors materialize the reality of the air we breathe.”

From September 18 to December 18, 2021, the Nicholas & Lee Begovich Gallery at California State University, Fullerton will feature over thirty years of Kim Abeles’ art related to her collection of scientific data and exploration of the environmental impact caused by airborne detritus. Chantal Ballo, a program representative from BAR’s Irvine Field Office, attended the opening reception. She was surprised to learn how impactful particulate matter is to air quality, even when it is not visible to the naked eye. She remarked, “It is easy to take clean air for granted. Seeing art made from harmful particulate matter really tells the story of how important clean air is for our environment, our health, and the health of future generations.”

Exhibit details are available on the California State University, Fullerton website. To learn more about Kim Abeles and view the Smog Collectors virtual gallery, visit

The Smog Catcher
The Smog Catcher II (Thirty Days of Smog) 1982

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