An examination of the wildlife and ecology of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The National Parks are a huge part of American history, and are frequently touted as “America’s best idea”. They have a great deal of influence on our cultural attitudes about nature, especially how they represent the concept of wilderness. We visit the parks to “escape ourselves,” to picture the land in a romantic way (reinforced by our arts and culture, such as the Hudson River School of landscape painting), and to imagine what life was like before humanity’s collective ecological footprint. Our view of the parks in this light places us at the extreme end of a human/nature binary, suggesting there is no middle ground.
In reality, the National Parks, supposed bastions of pure wilderness, are not completely removed from humans. The species of plants and animals that live within the parks are subject to evidence of human activity such as invasive species, altered habitats, and disrupted food webs. In particular, Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts more annual visitors than any other park, because of its central location and temperate climate. Many visitors are aware of the iconic (and commercialized) wildlife such as black bears, but may not know of others that play pivotal roles in the park.
In this body of work I am examining five different species that live in the park and their coexistence with other organisms, including humans. In some cases, we’re the good guys, taking great strides to restore a balanced ecosystem (that admittedly was thrown off by past generations). Other times, we unknowingly wreak havoc by something as simple as transporting firewood. Any and all of these actions have the ability to create a ripple effect through a network of interdependent species, a network that is fragile, yet adaptable.
Here Be Dragons
Illustrations to accompany an article on dragonflies and damselflies in the Spring 2017 issue of Smokies Life magazine.
A piece for Light Grey Art Lab's Tiny Homes exhibition, inspired by the variety of log cabins and other structures preserved in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unlike many other national parks, the land was purchased from landowners rather than previously owned by the government. These individuals sacrificing their homes (though some weren't elated about the idea) for the future preservation of a habitat for plants and an animals is an interesting reversal of what we typically see in the 21st century.
Discover Life in America T-Shirt
A t-shirt designed for the nonprofit Discover Life in America, which operates within Great Smoky Mountains National Park and strives to catalog all of its species. The shirt can be purchased from any official park visitor center.
Assorted traditional painting work, including still lifes, plein air at Ox-Bow School of Art in Saugatuck, MI, and a 10' x 6' mural made for Grand Valley State University's Central Utilities Building.
Various illustrations for Great Smoky Mountains National Park's quarterly newspaper, Smokies Guide.
A three-part mock advertising series for the ASPCA about the proper care of small animals, and the tendency to give animals to young children as means of "teaching responsibility" - much like household chores.
A poster based on a quote from Chuck Palahniuk's "Invisible Monsters".
80s Music Valentines
A series of prints I made for a Valentine's day sale.
HIGHLIGHT aims to explore human-animal relationships on a genetic level. Our influence over an animal's genetic code is not limited to a mouse in a lab; it extends to everything from our household pets to our livestock. As evolving technology allows us further opportunity to manipulate the DNA of other species, it is important to consider why we might want to do so.