Skip to Content

Erika Blumenfeld

Emerson Collective Fellowship

Making art at the convergence of science, nature, and culture.

Headshot of Erika Blumenfeld

Erika Blumenfeld grew up engaged in both the arts and sciences. The two forms of knowledge have become equal tools that she wields to explore the creative imagination and the mysteries of our universe. Her artistic path has led her to collaborate across disciplines, and with research institutions, including NASA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, to create her work. Erika is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, and a recipient of a NASA Johnson Space Center Director’s Innovation Award.

Blumenfeld’s work explores the idea that—in our very chemistry—we are of and from the cosmos. “My intent is to cultivate an expanded sense of human connectedness with the natural world, and to explore the emotion of wonder as a convergence of both personal and cosmic reflection,” she says. Now, she’s interested in the potential for this connection to drive action for climate. Working with scientists—in atmospheric physics, remote sensing, and earth sciences—she is on a mission to deepen our connection with Earth by linking climate science with the human story.

As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Blumenfeld will focus on a new project, Earthlight, that brings together art, climate science, and space technology. Building on research from social psychology that shows that experiences of awe and wonder help us see ourselves as part of something larger, Blumenfeld says, “Earthlight intends to tell a story of our interconnected world written in the language of light.”

Each planet has its own light signature, known as “albedo,” that is a measure of solar radiation reflected from its surface. Since the health of Earth’s climate depends on a balance between incoming and reflected sunlight, albedo is a marker for monitoring climate change. Because Earth’s albedo is visible only from space, Blumenfeld plans to send her custom light-imaging system to the International Space Station to map the luminance of our planet.

Earthlight will produce albedo image data that Blumenfeld will make available to researchers for climate science. She will also create a series of new visualization artworks for the public. Blumenfeld hopes that Earthlight will inspire in viewers wonder, and a sense of interconnection with Earth’s biosphere; and that Earthlight will drive a more empathetic relationship with the planet.