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This Artist’s Canvas is Trash She Finds in the Wild

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but perhaps it's another woman’s canvas. That’s at least how artist Mariah Reading sees it. She’s an eco-artist who creates intricate works of art on trash she finds in the wild.

Reading’s upcycled art process began in her final year of art school when she noticed that most of the art materials they were using in class were getting dumped in the trash. Rather than create more products for the landfill, she looked to the waste bin to find a makeshift canvas she could use for her graduation project. Little did she know that this was the beginning of a new and unique style of art that blended discarded objects and impressionistic paintings.

Following graduation, Reading traveled across the country to learn more about conservation and clean up trash she found along the way. Of course, she brought her paintbrush and paints, too. From Zion National Park in Utah to Denali National Park in Alaska, Reading explored, cleaned, and painted. She always hiked with her art supplies stowed in her backpack, and whenever she found a piece of trash—like beer cans or smoke detectors—she would set up her mini studio and get to work. 

Originally, she funded her adventures by working at cafes and restaurants near the places she visited. But thanks to the artist residency programs hosted by the National Park Service, Reading now stays within a variety of national parks and is busy painting, and hosting eco workshops. Her goal with her workshops is to bring the community with her as she picks up trash and to teach them how to make artwork on the objects she finds. All in all, she hopes her unique artwork can spark a conversation about conservation and keeping these wild places pristine. 

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