Julia Caldwell, “Beauty and Her Beast”

This project strives to raise awareness and bring attention to the increasing amount of vandalization and waste at our National Parks here in the United States. Pastel drawings and photography are the mediums used in this project to show, not tell, the realities of our precious Parks and what they will all end up looking like if nothing is done to protect them.

To begin, it is crucial for readers to understand the significance of the color orange, which is the color of the photobook holding this project together. Orange is associated with “joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation…Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. In heraldry, orange is symbolic of strength and endurance. Orange has very high visibility, so you can use it to catch attention” (Color Wheel Pro)

That said, not only can the color orange represent the joy, sunshine, enthusiasm, and happiness that most people correlate with National Parks, but the objective of the orange book is to catch attention. When that attention is caught, mental activity is already stimulated before the reader opens the book, all because of the color of its cover. The symbolic strength and endurance of the color orange resonate with the strength of our Earth but also gives strength to the young readers who are the ones in a position to finally encourage and make these changes to our struggling planet.

On six consecutive pages, handmade pastel drawings are presented on the righthand side. Specifically, Zion, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Saguaro, and Sequoia National Parks are the six parks drawn. On their opposing page to the left, the name of the park is stated. Between every set of pages, there is a clear plastic sheet protector, each with different cutout coverups; garbage, graffiti, and other vandalism. The sheet protector can be easily moved on and off the pastel drawings of the Parks to juxtapose the pure nature and respect humans should have with nature at the Parks, with the original and disgraceful “art” that visitors have tainted the Parks with.

The original Joshua Tree drawing, seen on the first page in the art book, was a gift for a significant other after we visited the park in the Summer of 2018. Because the 2019 government shutdown had such negative effects on our National Parks, this project strives to not allow these actions to be overlooked or be forgotten. The park became a special place to us, and the harm done to it felt more personal than it ever would have before.

The two women sketched in each drawing – whether sitting on a rock, standing, canoeing, sitting cross-legged on the ground, or hugging a sequoia tree, are always gazing into the distance, together. The devaluation of women and the environment undeniably go hand in hand. Thus, isolating and juxtaposing the two highlights their relations to one another. Though these ideas were brought together coincidentally, it goes without saying that both women and the Earth must be respected and empowered – and like the women in the drawing, we must come together, hand in hand and look forward, directly at the problem.

Graffiti, engravings, spray paint, cutting down trees; are just a few examples of the vandalism appearing in our National Parks. But it doesn’t stop at just etching your name into precious rock, the amount of waste in our parks is becoming extremely difficult to manage – leaving our parks dirty and polluted with plastic bottles, food wrappers, bags, and other non-biodegradable waste.

So, why a physical book? Simply stated, according to the British Psychological Society, “it’s easier to develop meaningful feelings of ownership over a physical entity than a digital one” (Jarrett). “The greater sense of ownership afforded by a physical product is only an enticing prospect when there’s a motivation to experience a strong sense of connection with it.” Hold this book, flip through this book and develop this meaningful connection discussed above – that’s how the change will begin.

Though most people that see this project will see it through the bright screen in their hands, my hopes are that the digital experience itself is enough to convince viewers to empathize with me for our National Parks and raise their voices. So, bring food and drinks in reusable containers, throw out trash and recyclables in appropriate bins, and dispose of organics in compost bins. Live, climb, hike, and explore – but, respect the land. The Earth gives us these beautiful lands to witness and enjoy – so, don’t be the person to destroy it for everyone.

To view the digital content of “Beauty and Her Beast,” click on this hyperlink.