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Artist transforms trash into treasure

Woman repurposes litter and repurposes it into art
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Posted at 4:17 PM, Jan 20, 2022

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — An artist in Maine is combining two of her passions into one eco-friendly message.

"Usually on beaches, it's like buoys, little chunks of plastic” Mariah Reading said.

Reading scours some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere, including the sand beach at Acadia National Park.

Reading picks up litter in open areas and transforms it into painted landscapes.

She describes it as her canvas.

"Plastic water bottles, rope is always a big thing. But I've also found shoes and PJ pants draped on the side of trees like, where did these come from?" said Reading.

It's all part of what Reading calls her eco-art, often painting the very spot where she picked up a particular piece of trash.

"I call the painting that I do outside in plain air, I call them color studies. Because I'm just trying to grasp the colors that I see around me” says Reading.

While her eco-art can be on the lighter side, Reading does consider herself a serious artist with an even more serious message.

As much as she enjoys collecting junk, she says only helps illustrate the ongoing environmental challenges facing the planet.

"Eco-art is this new form of art that addresses the Anthropocene that we're living in and kind of uses art as a tool to display climate change and pollution” she said.

Since beginning this project, Reading has traveled the country combing dozens of beaches and searching through hundreds of miles of forest.

Her efforts caught the eye of People Magazine, which featured her work on a two-page spread in December 2021.

Reading said "I was just blown away. I had no idea that it was going to be that large and in charge. It was really really exciting."

Exciting, she says not just because more people will see her art, but more people might stop and think about the meaning behind it.

"I hope that when people see my art they are excited to make small steps in their own lives to become more sustainable and can see their habits reflected in either the plastic water bottle or the location it was found."

Reading says her favorite way to showcase her work is to photograph the piece of painted trash in front of the landscape it depicts.