Floaters and Focal Points: Associate Professor Erika Osborne shares recent environmental art series

Oil paintings and charcoal drawings of the environment
Environmental artist and Associate Professor Erika Osborne’s recent series Floaters and Focal Points

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the College of Liberal Arts is highlighting the environmental research and creative artistry of some of our outstanding faculty. Liberal arts disciplines bring a unique and human perspective to issues of the environment, with research and creative artistry that explores difficult issues, enables understanding, and promotes engaged dialogue.

Environmental artist Erika Osborne is an associate professor in the Department of Art & Art History. Her artwork deals with cultural connections to place and environment. Her recent body of work, Floaters and Focal Points, explores distraction and the healing power of nature.

Artist statement

Pessimism and hope travel together.

When I am in red rock country, I sit enamored with the beauty in front of me. Then it happens… somewhere in the back of my mind, a newspaper article or Facebook post surfaces that reveals the oil and gas drilling operation being proposed for that very area. The thought taints my experience with the desert view. I can’t see it without it being obscured by politics, ecologic crisis, and cultural complacency. These floaters distract me. They are ever present. They are blinding.

Sick of the floaters, I look for a cure. I make a conscious choice to hear the words, perform the actions and appreciate the beauty that makes me believe (even for just a few seconds) in humanity and in nature’s ability to heal. Focusing-in takes effort and requires discipline. But I do it because I have skin in the game – literally. The shear will that arises from giving birth has sharpened my focus and challenged my view.

-Erika Osborne


Charcoal drawing of waterfall
Floaters (Damming the Yellowstone), 2017; charcoal and gouache on paper; 22″ x 30″

Charcoal drawing of canyon
Floaters (Drilling in Canyon Country), 2017; charcoal and gouache on paper; 22″ x 30″

Focal Points

Grief and Resilience Live Together


Oil painting of natural disaster with bright sky focal point
Love Letter from a Sinking Ship, 2019; oil on canvas; 54″ x 60”

Oil painting of logs with wildflower focal point
Hope is a Function of Struggle, 2018; oil on canvas; 60 x 54″

Erika Osborne

Erika Osborne is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art & Art History. She received her BFA from the University of Utah in painting and drawing and her MFA from the University of New Mexico. She has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, with over ten solo exhibitions and over 80 group exhibitions in recent years – including shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Nevada Museum of Art and the Chautauqua Institute. Osborne has also been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a recent Fulbright fellowship.