Bowdoin College graduate brings new meaning to ‘leave no trace’ with eco-art project

A play by Mariah Reading from Mount Desert Island titled “Lend a Hand”. Courtesy of Mariah Reading

From a glove abandoned in the woods to canvas for a striking landscape painting, Mariah Reading, a 2016 graduate of Bowdoin College, brings a new meaning to ‘leave no trace’.

“I really love painting on shoes,” Reading said. “When I was in Zion National Park as an Artist in Residence I found tons of shoes, just like simple shoes and I think that really takes over our human footprint.”

Reading is an artist from Bangor and also works as a seasonal ranger. She describes her current project as multimedia, eco-art designed to address the themes of consumerism, climate change and our own environmental footprint.

The idea for the project first came to my mind, Reading said, as he finished a mold-making course at Bowdoin and saw the disturbing amount of waste created as a by-product.

Artist and 2016 Bowdoin College graduate Mariah Reading holding one of her paintings. Courtesy of Mariah Reading

“I’m a landscape painter, that’s kind of where my schooling is, but I’m a great outdoorswoman and love kayaking, hiking, and backpacking,” she said. “So what I do is find trash throughout my travels, then paint the landscape where the trash was found on the object itself, then hold it against the physical landscape, then photograph it. . So in that way it’s a painting, a photograph, and kind of a sculptural object.

Reading imposes few limits on what she will paint on. Water bottles, hubcaps, pants and coffee mugs are just a few examples of the items that served as canvas. In total, Reading estimated that she had made around 250 pieces of eco-friendly art.

During his travels across the United States, Reading said he noticed how different discarded objects can be representative of unique environments, like a buoy on the coast of Maine. After the play is completed, Reading said they display, sell, or generally give it away.

Each piece is unique and the creation process varies frequently, said Reading, which helps keep the project exciting. Sometimes she will paint the object on the site where it was found, and other times she will bring it back to the studio.

“Sometimes I paint on my own waste too, I really don’t want my work to be judgmental and I want to recognize that I’m a consumer too,” Reading said. “I am an imperfect environmentalist, I strive to be more sustainable.”

Ultimately, Reading hopes his project helps express the weight of climate change in a more digestible way and inspires people to see themselves through art and make small, eco-friendly changes in their lives. .

After earning a visual arts degree from Bowdoin, Reading worked as a teacher for two years. Since then, she has been Artist in Residence in Denali, Zion and Acadia National Parks. His work has also been featured across the United States, in parts of Texas, California, Colorado, Alaska, and here in Brunswick, Maine.

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