This eco artist turns litter into landscape paintings

  • 18 Dec - 24 Dec, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

Mariah Reading has a confession: yes, she's an environmentalist, but she can't help perking up when she comes across a piece of trash on a trail. Over the past four years, Reading, 27, has made rubbish her muse and medium, painting landscapes on more than 100 pieces of trash that she's found while hiking, climbing or paddling through 29 national parks. The results are whimsical but also carry an important message. The Bangor, Maine, native grew up with an early appreciation for nature exploring the nearby forests and coastlines. While studying art at Bowdoin College – and seeing the vast amounts of waste from her painting and sculpture classes – she began to seriously consider her footprint as an artist. "I thought, 'How can I paint landscapes if I'm harming them?'" Two weeks before her graduation, she changed her thesis and began using the refuse as her canvas. While teaching and travelling throughout the country, she also picked up trash to bring to her studio. Since she began the project, she's logged some 6,000 miles and has painted everything from a can of bug spray in Minnesota to a pair of flannel pajama pants she found hanging on a tree in Maine's Acadia National Park.