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Natural Beauty
By Kelly Araujo Hernandez
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2020 - Division III (Grades 9-12)

Wetlands are ecosystems that are covered in water for at least one season and are full of aquatic plants. They’re very important because they prevent flooding (which helps keep river levels normal and filters and purifies the surface water) and are home to many creatures (including some threatened species found in wetlands in Maine). Currently, wetlands are in danger of habitat fragmentation, polluted runoff, water level changes, invasive species, and filling. Another issue happening includes people dumping yard waste into wetlands. This waste breaks down and becomes soil, causing wetland filling.Through filling, the animals living there and the environment around it are greatly affected, wetland habitat is lost and there is a decrease in flood storage capacity, increasing the risk for downstream flooding. These issues are important to me because they are lesser-known/discussed and I want to raise awareness of these issues in my art. I’m very passionate about nature and wildlife and I incorporate these elements into my pieces. In fact, this watercolor painting is part of my sustained investigation that explores various environmental issues. The purpose of this work is to portray our Earth’s natural beauty. My hopes for my art are to captivate the observers’ attention and get them to read the artist's statement, which states the issues happening and makes the onlooker aware of the situations going on around them. Additionally, another goal I plan to achieve with this painting is to inspire others. I wanted to achieve these goals and communicate my message by doing “before pics” that represent nature before human disruption and to also incorporate a landscape that was vibrant and full of life. I see this painting inspiring others to help make a change to preserve this wildlife habitat and others, to help protect and conserve our Earth, our home.