Most people see crushed beer cans, water bottles, old coffee cups and broken shoes as trash. Not Mariah Reading. She looks at these discarded items and gets inspired to make beautiful art.

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A person holding a painted canvas in front of a similar nature background.

Reading is an ecological artist using her gift to show the world through a different lens. She visits national parks, beaches and forests to find discarded items that become the inspiration for her art. Reading’s goal is to showcase the reality of climate change and the beauty of nature when it is left intact and undisturbed by humans.

Related: Artist 3D-prints biodegradable agar floral lamps

A hand holding a circular painting up to a mountainous landscape.

“I collect most of the trash I use as my canvas, although sometimes I have friendly neighbors who find some cool trash and gift it to me! When I complete a painted work, I photograph the item aligned within the environment it’s based off. I share and display my work with my Instagram audience, and sell both the physical paintings as well as the photographic prints of the work in both galleries and my online shop,” Reading said.

A painted canvas blending into a rocky shore.

Her favorite female artists include Maya Lin, Marina Abramovic, Judy Twedt, Natasha Cunningham, Lisa Ericson and Emma Longcope. But which artists helped shape Reading’s style the most? “Growing up, I was overwhelmingly inspired by M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte because their work was so transfixing and felt like the opposite of my own impressionistic paintings at the time. I find it interesting how my work has now gravitated toward optical illusions, in vain of these formative artists,” Reading told Inhabitat.

A painted flip-flop blending into a river area.

As for using her artwork to shine a light on the effects of climate change, Reading said, “I think most people in my generation are hyper-conscious of climate change – eco-anxiety is hard to avoid. Being a landscape painter, I have the privilege of living in dynamic and breathtaking environments, many of which express dramatic evidence of climate change right before my eyes.”

A painted bottle blending into a mountain landscape.

Discussing the goals of her work, Reading said, “As an eco-artist, I aim to paint the ever-changing landscapes and fleeting moments as a historical marker and as a way to protect them. I don’t think I could navigate life without trying to make the world a more beautiful place.”

+ Mariah Reading

Photography by Mariah Reading