MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Bangor eco-artist Mariah Reading turns trash into works of art.
Reading is the current Artist-in-Residence at ArtWaves, a nonprofit arts organization in Town Hill. Being artist-in-residence for a three-week period has allowed Reading to teach recycled painting classes in exchange for a place to stay in Bar Harbor. Her artwork is currently on display in the reception area of the Mount Desert Island Hospital.
Reading has participated in four national park Artist-in-Residence programs, including Acadia National Park’s in 2019. During her Acadia residency, the park housed her at Eli’s Creek Cabin in Isle au Haut and the Brown Mountain Gatehouse in Bar Harbor, places, she said, that were inspirational experiences for her art.
“There’s been a tradition of artists in the park responding to these landscapes that are changing to mark timelines of these beautiful, native lands,” Reading said.
Following her participation in Acadia’s program, Reading donated a piece of her art to the park, which can be seen at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. One of her pieces inspired by her ArtWaves residency will be donated to Friends of Acadia.
Reading wanted to be an artist from a young age and became immersed with the landscapes of Maine in high school. “My dad is an architect, my brother is an artist, and my parents gave me paintbrushes from a very early age, which fostered that creativity,” she said. She gravitated towards landscape painting in college, where she was a visual and education arts major.
Toward the end of her college career, Reading realized how much trash she was accumulating as an artist and how the items used to create her landscapes, such as old paint tubes and crusty paint brushes, fed landfills.
“I was so inspired by beautiful landscapes, yet I was harming them with my creative process, so that’s when I drew it together,” she said.
Reading searches for marine debris to incorporate into her paintings, either by painting on the refuse itself or by attaching a canvas to it. “I try to come up with creative ways to respond to things that wind up in the ocean and wash up on our shore – buoys, plastic, clothing items and anything,” she said.
Reading said she is grateful for the opportunities offered to her over the years. She aims to preserve landscapes by using trash in her art.
“I just want to leave this environment better than I found it and make small steps to be more sustainable,” she said.