Eco Art Session 7/22/17

For my second eco art session I focused on the idea of "footprints" (and/or handprints) and what us, as visitors, leave behind when interacting with National parks. A common phrase used in the parks is "leave only footprints, take only photos." When visiting parks I think A LOT about the literal and metaphorical footprints I leave behind. Hopefully these prints are not visible (aka litter, going off trail, making new cairns). It is important to reflect on the ways your visit has touched the land positively OR negatively. On the other side of things, maybe it is more impactful to think about the way the park has made an impact (imPRINT??) on your relationship with the outdoors? My goal of these eco art workshops in the park is solely to reflect, and even if one realized they have had some sort of negative impact on the land, the act of sitting down and reflecting is positive because it's the first step to moving forward.  

 Family's collaborative handprint collage. Did they touch the park or has the park touched them???

Family's collaborative handprint collage. Did they touch the park or has the park touched them???

 META HAND HOLDING HAND

META HAND HOLDING HAND

The day was wonderful and filled with a lot of this reflection! Michael Haynie, an interpretive ranger for the park, gave me a huge box filled with out of date park newspapers and maps from 2014. The maps seemed to be the exact replicas of the ones we hand out today, but apparently a few minor changes had been made, making these hundreds of copies unusable. So that was the substrate we were to work with!

I had a reluctant family of four from Canada resist my ploys to get them to make art, but finally they gave in to my spiel muahahah. The parents seemed especially self conscious to create art, but the simple act of tracing their hands to cut out and collage onto an old park newspaper (pictured above) took some of the pressure off and they were able to thrive! Jenny Browne, the Artist in Residence for the month of July, also graced me with her presence! She too, cut out her own hand and painted ocotillo growing up her fingers.

Later, another family of four joined in on the fun. They were UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING. I still cannot get over how enthusiastic and brilliant these kids were. Their parents were super thankful/ excited and said that they were going to continue making art on the maps that they accumulate from other parks on their road trip!!!!!! HOW COOL! The boy was 2 (but almost 3) and was a little shy but not when it came to painting! His older sister (5) was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen and also my artistic inspiration. She dove right in and took off her little velcro shoe so I could help her trace her footprint on the old map!

 Jenny's artistic hand blooming with life

Jenny's artistic hand blooming with life

 This gal is GOIN PLACES

This gal is GOIN PLACES

 Action shot about to trace her foot!

Action shot about to trace her foot!

 Siblings creating together! My heart!

Siblings creating together! My heart!

The last family was ALSO adorable. There were two younger girls who were FEARLESS when it came to colors. It is so exciting watching kids make art because it is always unique and unexpected and therefore beautiful. At the end of the session the mom attempted to "donate" the painted maps to the park, which I gotta say is fine by me but also... COME ON! But the grandfather was sneaky and ended up taking both of his granddaughters' paintings and risking his car getting a little paint stained. YES!

 Look at those stormy colors!

Look at those stormy colors!

 That texture and MOVEMENT!

That texture and MOVEMENT!

Trash and recycling

I am still considering what to do with my recycling. Do I make some sort of art with it, or is that in itself unhelpful because that could actually be recycled? So far I've just been hoarding it in my room. I have close to one bag full ALREADY. But on the bright side, I've been here close to two weeks and I haven't filled a trash bag yet! I'm gonna keep a tally on how much trash I produce this summer and keep you guys posted. 

 Live, laugh, La Croix 

Live, laugh, La Croix 

I've been religiously listening to the "Stuff You Should Know" podcast and an episode that particularly took my interest was "How Landfills Work." I found out that on average American's produce 4.6 pounds of trash per day per person. YIKES! How can we be better at reducing the amount we waste? Although landfills are carbon neutral, it takes time and energy to remove trash and get it to those designated spaces. Whereas it takes far less energy to recycle an aluminum can into another aluminum can.

I've learned that when living in remote places, arguably the places that need trash and recycling services the most, have the hardest times doing so. Apparently, if living remotely, try to use aluminum products instead of glass. The glass is heavier and takes up more space whereas you can crush a soda can against your skull and reduce its service area by a bunch!! GOOD TO KNOW!! 

GMNP week 2 & 3

My first week on the job I came across this dad and his three kids (as discussed in an earlier post GMNP Week 1). It was such a great experience to meet and work with them. However, something the dad said during that encounter really stuck with me... He urged his kids to really take advantage of the opportunity because "we'll probably never get the chance to paint in a National Park again." I'm paraphrasing but WOW what the HECK!!! Everyone should get the chance to paint/ be creative in ANY way during every interaction they have with a park!! What better a space to be creative than the majesty of the great outdoors??? It really saddened me to hear those works come out of his park supporting mouth- after all, the kids were between 5 and 12. They have their WHOLE LIVES to create in parks!!! The middle boy even said that he wanted to be an artist when he grows up! I told him, "me too."

 Hiking up Bear Canyon to Tejas trail with my ranger friends Angel and Destiny

Hiking up Bear Canyon to Tejas trail with my ranger friends Angel and Destiny

I think this is an important issue that should be addressed in the NPS. Because of Artist In Residence (AIR) programs around the country, the NPS clearly values art. The tricky part is giving non-professional artists the tools to feel comfortable creating and reflecting on their experiences within parks! I have definitely fallen victim to just driving straight through a park, doing the most popular hike, and zooming off to the next destination. People are on TIME CRUNCHES! It is a real struggle, especially nowadays to give visitors the opportunity to slow down and appreciate where they are. I have been trying to slow down my fast pace recently. My busy bee East Coast ways are imbedded pretty deep into my being so it has been difficult to literally slow down to smell the flowers or observe a rock or notice a unique view. Just yesterday I went for a long hike with some of the park rangers. I knew going in that it was going to be a long hike, but it still took everything I had to not just bust through, keep my head down, and make it to the top. The rangers taught me about the importance of stopping often and reflecting, which I'm all about! But it still takes practice and patience to be a true master of being present and noticing where you are. 

El (Hub)Capitan

This was the first completed piece that I've created while in the park! I found this hubcap off the side of the highway next to the large park entrance sign. Immediately I was drawn to how the hubcap cracked off to form the Guadalupe Mountain range all on its own and wanted to find a way to play that up in my painting. Over the course of the time that it took me to paint this the park received some serious amounts of rain (believe it or not!) and that is why the yellows I used for the grasses in the foreground are so vastly different from the actual greens in the photograph! Go nature! Soak up that water!

 Acrylic on half a hubcap. 2017

Acrylic on half a hubcap. 2017

No Paint Left to Dry

"Just a drop not a lot" is a saying us teachers like to use when talking to students about the proper paste usage. But I've been trying to live by this saying when applying amounts of paint to my palate. I get super frustrated when I don't use up all my paint. So something that I've started to do is make color swatches with the leftover paint to use as backgrounds for drawings/paintings to come in my sketchbook. I love the freedom it allows me to just get a little abstract and gestural! I challenge you to think of other ways to make use of extra paint that has not dried up yet!! I'd love to hear it!

 Leftover paint #1

Leftover paint #1

 Leftover paint #2

Leftover paint #2

 Pen and ink sketch drawn on top of leftover paint page #2 

Pen and ink sketch drawn on top of leftover paint page #2 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is only about a 30 min drive from the GMNP. The two parks are actually part of the same system of mountains and therefore connected in many ways! I only had the morning to explore the park because I had to get to town later that day to run some errands (I justified this rushed action in my mind by making a promise to myself that I WILL BE BACK to take a more thoughtful/ extended visit). My game plan was to get there as close to 8AM as possible, hike the natural entrance, hike the big room loop, and then hike back up!

 Posing in the dark with my noticeably small bag of trash!

Posing in the dark with my noticeably small bag of trash!

Driving to the Caverns wasn't too bad, but the road was narrow so I was unable to pull over to retrieve some cans I saw on the side of the road. When I got to the parking lot, it was mostly empty, but for some reason I was drawn to the back of the lot. Right when I got out I spotted a beer can in a bush next to my car! It had been calling my name! 

I would say there is more of a tourist industry at Carlsbad Caverns. There is an option to not even hike down the caves, but instead to take an elevator (which is good because it's accessible to all but tough because there is a lot of foot traffic!). Connected to the visitor center there is a restaurant, and two gift shops. I had never really experienced anything like this park before, instead of hiking up a mountain you hike into the depths of the earth! I ended up taking so many dark and blurry photos of the hanging stalactites and gmites. 

 One of my favorite photos I took! I'm in love with that negative space!

One of my favorite photos I took! I'm in love with that negative space!

When walking 755 feet down into the earth your eyes begin to adjust to the lack of light. TG because I was able to spot an empty plastic water bottle behind a stone bench on my walk down! But other than that I really did not find trash along the natural entrance path to the caverns. WOOHOO!! I did find some food wrappings and paper scraps at the very bottom by the concession stand and bathroom area, but all in all not too much in the actual cave!

After leaving the caverns, I did a sweep of the visitor center and parking lot and found some plastic swords for drinks, straws, bottle caps, plastic cups, and plastic water bottles.  

 I always find it interesting to see ways in which humans leave behind their marks in parks. In other words: KEEP UR OILY FINGERS OFF THE STALACTITES AND DON'T ASSUME ANY BODY OF WATER IS A GD WISHING WELL PPL!!!!!!!!!!

I always find it interesting to see ways in which humans leave behind their marks in parks. In other words: KEEP UR OILY FINGERS OFF THE STALACTITES AND DON'T ASSUME ANY BODY OF WATER IS A GD WISHING WELL PPL!!!!!!!!!!

Eco Art Session 7/8/17

 Primed canvases ready to be eco art-ed!

Primed canvases ready to be eco art-ed!

 All set up for eco art!

All set up for eco art!

My first eco arts in the parks session was held a few days ago! I decided to fish through the recycling bins throughout the park and grab a bag full of cans and bottles that visitors had RESPONSIBLY taken care of but due to the lack of recycling services (there are NONE within 100 miles) would end up in a landfill! I pre-primed the beverage vessels (lol) so they were ready to be painted on by visitors. The first family that came by was full of artistic energy! The parents had three boys and a girl who wanted to paint on as much trash as they could get their child-sized hands on! Each kid did 2-3 separate paintings, some of which were very impressive! The youngest child just kinda flailed and painted a green can another shade of green. I was happy he was able to go through the motions but he actually ended up leaving behind a few of his pieces. At first, I was sad, but it was probably for the better! As I mentioned before, the goal is to keep these materials out of a landfill, so I ended up just taking the leftover art and priming over it for someone else to paint on later. This process is turning into a very meta recycling art cycle and I love it!!!  

 Guadalupe Mountain range on an Arizona Ice Tea can

Guadalupe Mountain range on an Arizona Ice Tea can

 Three of the four siblings posing with their creations 

Three of the four siblings posing with their creations 

 Loved how the two bottles went together to form a larger piece!

Loved how the two bottles went together to form a larger piece!

 Who needs to buy a snow globe when you possess the power of paint!!

Who needs to buy a snow globe when you possess the power of paint!!

Some notable visiting artists included a junior ranger (green vest and all!!) make a painting on a pamphlet for her friend! Why pay for souvenirs when you can MAKE THEM!? Her sister painted on the ENTIRE bottle and a man from Holland made an expressive color block landscape. Later in the day some little boys and their grandparents stopped by. THEY WERE AMAZING! This one little boy couldn't have been more than 3 years old and he was literally double fisting paintbrushes and saying "I love pink, I love lellow (yellow), I love green" for the whole session! His older brother started going at his can painting with dark maroons and greens. After completed, I pointed out how his brush strokes formed the shape of a mountain and the kid was SO STOKED! He literally flipped out being like, "I painted the Guadalupe Mountains without even knowing it!" Then went off to declare, "I love my beautiful art" as he proudly presented his work to his grandparents.

THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT! What an amazing day!! I am excited to come up with new ways to get visitors acquainted with the term eco art!

 Double fisting paintbrushes (aka MY HERO)

Double fisting paintbrushes (aka MY HERO)

 Look at that sunset behind the mountains!

Look at that sunset behind the mountains!

GMNP week 1

My first week at the park was *truly* one of the better weeks of my life. For the first time in a long time I am so happy to be where I am. The flexibility a volunteer position rewards is second to none (if I could volunteer for the parks full time I WOULD)! I wake up every morning even earlier than I did for school and get excited to volunteer in the park! I go to bed later because I have the energy to paint all night, which is something I did not have in California. Not that I'm sad about my days off either but I find myself missing volunteering!! Each day passes by so quickly despite the fact that the days are even LONGER than my actual job! GAH! It is exciting to know that this might be the start of a career path! I am feeling so fortunate to be here a part of such a rich and loving community of people who love the outdoors as much as I do!

I've been able to collect some pretty solid amounts of trash so far. The other day I stopped my car right by the park entrance sign. I found a handful of beer bottles, a piece of a hubcap, and various paper scraps INCLUDING a park newspaper from the Great Sand Dunes National Park (in COLORADO!!!) How crazy that piece of paper had traveled across multiple state lines only to end up at the entrance to another park? 

 Great Sand Dunes National Park newspaper found at the entrance of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park (497 miles away!)

Great Sand Dunes National Park newspaper found at the entrance of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park (497 miles away!)

 Young artists holding up his eco art!

Young artists holding up his eco art!

 Using a park bench as an easle 

Using a park bench as an easle 

I ended up taking that lost newspaper with me on the trails. On some days my job is to "rove," which is essentially to hike around wherever you want and interact with hikers along the way (the DREAM). I decided to hike around McKittrick Canyon for the morning and then meander my way up to the nature walk next to the visitors center. There, I found a bench in the shade with a view of the Guadalupe Mountains: a perfect spot to set up shop and paint on the GSDNP newspaper! About half way through my painting a dad and his three kids walked by and wanted to join in the fun. Naturally I couldn't deny these sweet park-going kids the opportunity to make eco art! So we all had an impromptu art lesson on that there park bench! The kids were such enthusiastic artists and stuck around for close to 45 mins. They both decided to paint on old pamphlets that I had brought and we talked about the importance of using digital maps and/or making sure to recycle old paper maps as opposed to throwing them away. Most parks have maps that you can download online so think ahead before taking hard copies! Those kids absolutely made my day and got me even more excited for my first official eco arts in the parks session!

 Another young artist (4yo) holding up her expressive response to the landscape on a recycled map!

Another young artist (4yo) holding up her expressive response to the landscape on a recycled map!

 The painting I created using the GSDNP newspaper as a canvas

The painting I created using the GSDNP newspaper as a canvas

Something that I have been grappling with from this experience is recognizing that not all the art created will stay out of a landfill. If you do take a map and decide to make art out of it will you be less likely to throw it away or will that piece of art just end up in the garbage as well? These are all things to consider and make this issue very complex! With eco art, it is a goal to keep those materials OUT of landfills. But perhaps the first step is just introducing the concept of using recycled materials as a canvas to visitors. 

Although I try desperately to keep everything I can out of landfills and be as sustainable as possible am constantly thinking about ways I could be better. JUST TO NAME A FEW OF THE MANY WAYS I CAN IMPROVE: I pass up SO much trash in parks/ everywhere that I don't have the opportunity to collect; I am addicted to La Croix, which is packaged in cardboard and aluminum cans; I don't have a coffee machine this summer (and I NEED coffee) so I have to buy coffee BY THE CAN (kinda gross but gets the job done); I don't have a compost set up for the summer; and I take hard copies of maps from every park that I visit!! THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING! There are so many areas that I can/will work towards improving upon. But again, I believe *realizing* your impact is the first step to a greener world filled with more eco art. 

Tangent story but I thought it was worth telling: Later in the week I worked at Frijole Ranch, painting and welcoming visitors. At the very end of the day I met a lovely couple who told me about their various road trips. Out of nowhere they said their next plan was to do an east coast trip starting in BANGOR, MAINE! I just about screamed! THEN right as I was locking up for the day another couple stopped by and asked me about my work. We got to talking and I found out they were both sculpture professors at MASS ART right down the road from Maine!! The man gave me his card to get in contact with him! What a day filled with small world connections! 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

I finally made it to the park!! A little background about what I'm doing this summer. At the beginning of last fall I reached out to a bunch of National Parks with known Artist in Residence programs sharing with them my National Park Trash Art Project and enthusiasm to help in any way I could. At that point my dream was to get involved in a park like Yosemite or Zion but I was up for anything and just wanted to get the word out there. A few weeks later, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park reached out to me saying they had a place for me to stay if I wanted to spend the summer in West Texas as an Arts in the Parks Volunteer. I had never been to Texas before and had never even heard to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park but I figured why not! 

So here I am, 6 months later, driving to West Texas, not knowing exactly what I'm getting myself into. I was a little late getting to the park this past Thursday because I HAD to get DQ in New Mexico on the way and the line ended up being unreasonably long! I took 10 East for about 300 miles (yikes!). However, the last stretch of the journey was exciting to drive through because after driving hours on flat, hot, freeway I suddenly come upon this huge mountain range that I had seen only photos of! The view of El Capitan from the salt flats was absolutely stunning! 

I came into this position excited for the opportunity to see a new landscape and see what working in a National Park was actually like but not really expecting to fall in love with the location. However, the first few days of working here I HAVE fallen in love in a way I never thought I could! (I GET it Georgia). The expanse of sky is unbelievably big, and every evening there are beautiful blooming clouds over the mountains, thunder and lightening over the plains, and the sound of coyotes howling in the distance. Plus, there are lush trees and natural springs sprinkled throughout the park! Who woulda thunk!? ALREADY I have seen a roadrunner literally run across the road, a wild turkey, witnessed a rattle snake swallowing a squirrel whole, painted next to a deer, and had to stop for a little when driving to wait for a cow to cross the road. TG no tarantulas yet though!

 My "handprint" on the Frijole Ranch in GMNP.

My "handprint" on the Frijole Ranch in GMNP.

So far I have worked at the Frijole Ranch Cultural Museum in the park. My duties include opening the various historical sites, interacting with visitors on trails, and creating my own work! Starting next week I will be leading EcoArt workshops in the park for visitors on Saturdays. Feel free to swing by if you happen to be in the neighborhood lol! This coming week I am planning to create hand and footprint paintings with visitors and discuss the impact humans have on the environments we interact with (general idea pictured on right). In other words to depict our own individual "handprints" and/or "footprints" on the space.

I recently found out that the Guadalupe Mountains National Park does not have a recycling program due to the high costs and its remote location. However, there are falsely advertised recycling bins all throughout the park. I hope to gather as much of these recyclables as possible and find a way to involve the public in creating a large-scale art piece with these recyclable items that will otherwise go straight into a landfill. I just read http://media.subaru.com/pressrelease/1017/124/study-reveals-lack-awareness-waste-challenges-facing-u.s on ways you can reduce your own waste in National Parks and other protected areas! 

 Feeling super pumped about having an all-beige uniform! 

Feeling super pumped about having an all-beige uniform! 

Most of the trash I have collected so far in the park has been on Highway 62 that runs parallel to the park. My goal is to do a trash pickup down a stretch of the highway soon because often I drive past litter at 70MPH with a pickup truck or 18-wheeler tailing behind me (so I'm unable to abruptly stop). I have also noticed a lot of abandoned tire shards on the side of the highway and I want to do something productive with those too...

A lot of work to come, but all is well. PLEASE recycle/ consider doing something creative with  trash and empty beer cans produced this 4th of July!!

 Sunset behind El Capitan

Sunset behind El Capitan

Arches

Arches was the first piece where I really wanted to push the boundaries between 2D and 3D and create a painting that was also a sculpture. To do this I adhered most of the water bottles together to form an actual arch that raised above the surface of the other trash. 

  Arches  viewed straight on

Arches viewed straight on

  Arches  viewed from below. Notice how the arch is a 3D element. 

Arches viewed from below. Notice how the arch is a 3D element. 

Saguaro National Park

Visiting this park was a little hectic. It was a halfway point and where I spent the night before making it to the Guadalupe Mountains (AKA my second park of the DAY). By the time I rolled through Tucson the sun was about to set! But it actually worked out beautifully because the setting sun set the large Saguaro cacti on fire! I unfortunately was only able to drive through the park- but it was still magical and eerily quiet. I did not see a SINGLE person in the park while I was there.

The first night I drove through the West part of the park and to my happy surprise I did not find a SCRAP of trash! Not even by the visitors center! It was only when I drove a little further Southeast through the neighboring Tucson Mountain Park that I found a few bottles and bottle caps along with a purple pedicure flip flop?? I'd love to figure out the story behind that one...

The next morning I woke up pretty early because I had to get to the Guadalupe Mountains by 4PM and I forgot that there was a time change involved so I would be losing an hour! I drove a little out of my way to get to the East entrance of the Saguaro NP but it was worth it! There was a short 8 mile loop with plenty of pull outs to take some photos, but again I barely found ANY trash! At the visitors center I found ONE straw and one SMALL piece of plastic. But other than that the park was SPARKLING CLEAN! 

 Weird smile but LOOK HOW TINY MY LIL BAG O TRASH IS!!

Weird smile but LOOK HOW TINY MY LIL BAG O TRASH IS!!

 Side note: the skittles and water flavor packet were crumpled INSIDE the Polar Pop container. 

Side note: the skittles and water flavor packet were crumpled INSIDE the Polar Pop container. 

Joshua Tree National Park Pt 2

This was an exciting last min addition to my ~Southwest Summer~! Before I left, I checked the route to Tucson (my halfway point to the final destination of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park) and it literally went RIGHT through Joshua Tree NP- I couldn't pass it up! The 8 hour drive from Santa Barbara to Tucson ended up being a lot longer than I had intended so I unfortunately could only breeze through JT- but it was enjoyable nonetheless! There is a road that cuts through the park from the West Entrance to the Cottonwood Visitor center that lead me in the right general direction. The first part of the park I had done before in November with my aunt but the other three fourths was uncharted territory for me! When entering the park I had a flash of inspiration that I should attempt to find the bottles that had been wedged into the cracks of a rock formation that I was unable to reach before. NOW that I'm a seasoned trash collector I came prepared with an extendable claw (pictured below) that can grab things in tight corners! 

It was exciting searching for the same rocks I had found before! They ended up being at the Hidden Valley picnic area and I FOUND 3 BEER CANS AND 2 WATER BOTTLES!! I truly felt like a crazy trash pirate on a trash treasure hunt. 

 Happily hanging out with the freshly clawed trash from the Hidden Valley (Ranch?) picnic area that I was unable to retrieve in November. 

Happily hanging out with the freshly clawed trash from the Hidden Valley (Ranch?) picnic area that I was unable to retrieve in November. 

After that I continued on the Pinto Basin Road and pulled off on the occasional "Exhibit" to collect a few more water bottles, a straw, and a napkin! 

 So many water bottles! Nice to see people are keeping themselves hydrated but plz recycle hello!

So many water bottles! Nice to see people are keeping themselves hydrated but plz recycle hello!

Sequoia National Park

Disclaimer: Our campsite where we spent a great deal of time over the long weekend was at Lodgepole located in Sequoia so perhaps that is why we found substantially more trash there compared to Kings Canyon. At our physical campsite we mostly found smaller things like hair ties and bottle caps that had been left behind at or around the provided bear boxes. When walking around the visitor center (which included a market, laundromat, and showers) we picked up a few loose newspapers and paper scraps. It was surprising that most of the trash we found was on the physical trails as opposed to around the campsites or visitor centers. On the Tokopah Falls trail we found 6 empty plastic water bottles nestled in between rocks!! SIX!! What the heck! The trail wasn't even that long! What do people do? Just enjoy the beautiful scenery, chug their water, and then chuck it!?!? Aye yai yai! 

 Looking sad with three of the water bottles found behind rocks at the end of the Tokopah Falls Trail. 

Looking sad with three of the water bottles found behind rocks at the end of the Tokopah Falls Trail. 

Kings Canyon National Park

It was a touching and striking moment to sit with the General Grant Tree, the Nation's only living shrine, during Memorial Day Weekend. I still cannot get over how large and in charge these badass trees are. 

This park was highly congested, with bus shuttles and tour groups chugging along.Near the General Grant Tree loop there was a visitor center, gift shop, market, campground, and paved loop. There was quite a bit of construction by the market so unfortunately there was a lot of trash floating around. Things like empty water bottles, coffee cup sleeves, candy wrappers, empty snack bags, and cigarette butts. 

 With the trash found in Kings Canyon standing in front of the General Grant Tree

With the trash found in Kings Canyon standing in front of the General Grant Tree

Channel Islands National Park

So after we visited Pinnacles NP we made an impressive turnaround and got up the next morning to take the 8AM ferry to Santa Cruz Island! As we pulled into the parking lot in Ventura the passenger in the car directly behind us started examining my Maine license plate. Apparently she and her husband were both from Maine near Acadia PLUS they soon divulged that their son lives in Brunswick, ME, where I just flipping moved from! What a small world. Interactions like these are the best!

So we get on the ferry and the captain immediately warns us that the waters are v ~choppy~. I thought I was above sea sickness but unfortunately the Pacific had something different in mind for me so I spent the hour long ride keeping my eyes tightly shut and staying as still as possible so as to not vom all over the place. There was a point in the middle of the channel that a pod of dolphins swam next to the boat so I mustered the strength to crack one of my eyes opened to see. Not only was I awarded the view of those beautiful sea creatures, but also the sight of literally five people vomiting off the side of the boat! Apparently they had been doing that for the entire ride and I'd been missing the whole show!  

When we finally made it to land I realized that my bag was foamy from an old shampoo packet that had spilled. So Laura and I regrouped on some of the rocks on shore and then got a move on! It was amazing to experience how quickly my seasickness evaporated with the sight of such an unreal landscape. 

I was happy to find barely any trash on the Island, especially because there is no trash service!  Everything taken in must be taken out! The most of the litter I found was by the visitor centers and campgrounds, but overall the whole Island was clean! YAY! On one of the trails I found broken sunglasses, an Evian bottle, a broken styrofoam cup, some kind of plastic gear, and an abandoned hat. That was it! 

 On the ferry back to Ventura lovingly holding my trash.

On the ferry back to Ventura lovingly holding my trash.

Pinnacles National Park

This park I really didn't know too much about before going (it actually only just became a National Park in 2013!) All I knew was that it was close(ish). So when my cousin from Denver said she booked a flight to come visit me for a long weekend I tried to snag a campsite as soon as I could. We were able to book a site right in the park, so gladly got to whip out the family L.L.Bean 10 person tent for the FIRST TIME (wtf Mariah??) since the summer! It's literally so roomy you could easily do a dance routine and not touch the ceiling. Immediately after work ended at 3:00PM on that Friday I picked up my cousin (Laura) and put the pedal to the metal. I quickly exposed Laura to the song "I'm The One" and proceeded to learn the lyrics even more fully during the 3.5 hour drive. As we were closing in on the park, we made a quick stop at Carl's Jr (which I had never been to before!) and got some road burgers and milkshakes. Luckily, the sun had been setting much later and guided us through most of our trip, but for about the last 45 mins we had to put our brights on and hope google maps would lead us to the right place... 

We took a few wrong turns but eventually we made it to our campsite. The stars were OUT to play. JEEZE they were so bright and shiny. Once we parked I realized I forgot my headlamp at home so I had to shove my phone in flashlight mode down the front of my ear warmer. 

The next morning we woke up relatively early and made our way down the main road. We did a moderate loop that ended with an incredible vista overlook. Honestly, it was super hard to find any trash! Way to go, Pinnacles! Again, I had to deal with that weird conflicting feeling I've been feeling a lot of... "why am I feeling upset about there not being trash? This is a good thing, Mariah! This is the point, Mariah!!" 

Both my cousin and I had to really put our backs into it and SEARCHED. Most of what we found were loose papers and smooshed bottle caps. However one of the larger surfaces I found (pictured below) was a huge gallon milk jug. Later on, right as we were leaving the park actually, I spotted a small can of propane. Once we officially left the park I noticed a handful of beer cans on the side of the road and decided to pull over and grab them too. More exciting surfaces to paint on HOWEVER this is another example of the conflicting feelings and actions I've been trying to deal with. First of all, is it okay to include trash found NEAR but not technically INSIDE the parks for this project?? IDK! Second of all, is it okay to put yourself and potentially cars following you in danger in order to pick up a few beer cans? Honestly probably not the smartest idea, and if there were cars close behind me I wouldn't have done it. But then again, if we don't do it, who will?

Joshua Tree National Park

This was the first park I went to after my original trip across the country. It was like nothing I've ever seen before and I must go back immediately. I took the train down to San Diego to visit with my family for Thanksgiving and my aunt was up for an adventure for the return trip so we detoured to see some Joshua Trees. After starting a new job and feeling weird and uncomfortable about all that, it was soooooo refreshing to be in such an exquisite landscape! I remember just frantically running around from rock to rock and lookout to lookout, overjoyed with where I was.

We started by pulling over to random turnouts, where mostly we would find loose napkins, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. However, as we moved to explore more of the rock formations we found tons of debris wedged down the skinny and deep cracks between the rocks. This was the moment when I told myself it was necessary to invest in one of those extendable claws. We were able to reach and retrieve a fair amount of mostly beer cans, but we unfortunately had to leave a lot of it behind.

When in the field, searching for the trash becomes a game so quickly. So much so that I become excited when I see pieces of garbage and disappointed when I cannot find any. Throughout these park trips I constantly have to check and remind myself WHY I am doing this! That the point IS for there to be no trash to find! DUH MARIAH! I think it is actually more of a realistic reflection and representation of the landscapes to have some large pieces (perhaps larger more popular parks) next to teeny tiny pieces (parks that are less known/ have fewer campsites). 

Funny anecdote: we went on a small loop hike and parked the car behind another in one of those long RV spaces. When we returned someone had boxed us in!!! The next half hour was spent roaming around the lot trying to find the culprits but apparently they were taking their sweet time on that trail and didn't find it necessary to hustle back at all... So instead we befriended some men drinking beer in the bed of their truck next to us. The spot between the two cars kitty corner to us was TIGHT but just large enough that we thought we might be able to angle the car and squeeze through. For probably another half hour we inched the car closer and closer, backing up and readjusting and trying again. By the end of the whole ordeal, half of the parking lot had gathered round us with bated breath, to witness if we would scrape the ish out of our/ their car or be set free! TG we were set free to a warm round of applause! WHAT a fantastically beautiful display of human decency and support PLUS the fact that it was in such a beautiful place made the whole experience even more beautiful. THANK YOU, JT.

 Trash found in JTNP

Trash found in JTNP

The Narrows, Zion National Park

Hiking through the Narrows trail was by far my favorite experience of the trip. After driving through the orange deserts of Arches it was so refreshing to wade through turquoise waters and see leafy green trees sprouting from the ground. Along the actual Narrows trail, I  found virtually no trash. It was only when I returned to the trailhead and parking lot areas where the shuttle would stop did I find abandoned shoes and various pieces of debris. I really felt as though this collection of trash spoke the most to the location where it was found. Even my dad abandoned his shoes to carry them and go barefoot down the river trail. So it made a lot of sense that so much of the litter I found was also abandoned footwear, discarded or broken in the attempt to wade through the slippery trail. For this piece, I made a conscious choice to fracture the image by leaving many spots where the negative spaces could reveal the true shape of the trash items. 

 Acrylic on trash found at the Zion National Park on the Narrows Trail (water bottles, waterproof bootie, hair ties, broken flip flops)

Acrylic on trash found at the Zion National Park on the Narrows Trail (water bottles, waterproof bootie, hair ties, broken flip flops)

East Beach Buoy

One of my first weeks in Santa Barbara I was walking along East Beach and happened upon an abandoned buoy tangled in some seaweed. I was excited to make something with it but didn't know exactly what. It sat in my studio for a good three months without being touched. As the holiday season approached it finally came to me that I would paint East Beach onto it and then travel with it in my suitcase to Maine to give to my family. This way, a piece of me will always be in Maine and my family will always have a piece of the West Coast.

 Acrylic on buoy found at East Beach, Santa Barbara

Acrylic on buoy found at East Beach, Santa Barbara

Poland Spring

On our trip across the country we carried a 24 pack of Poland Spring water bottles in the back of the Subaru throughout the entire journey- in case ol' Berta tuckered out and we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. Also, the Maine water is the freshest of all the waters. Partway through the drive I had an idea to upcycle some of the water bottles I hadn't yet recycled. These water bottles fueled us from coast to coast and because of that, I wanted to depict the Atlantic Ocean transitioning to the Pacific Ocean.