The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Poster artists remind us what makes national parks worth visiting

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Art and conservation have long had a symbiotic relationship. As the National Parks Conservation Association’s president, Theresa Pierno, reminds readers in her foreword to “The Art of the National Parks,” photos and paintings spurred the protection of some of our country’s most beloved natural treasures. After photographer William Henry Jackson and painter Thomas Moran journeyed to northwest Wyoming in 1871 and brought back depictions of astounding landscapes, Congress established the first national park, Yellowstone.

“Their art made once-distant landscapes real to people with the power to protect them,” Pierno writes, “even though they had never set foot in Wyoming and probably never would.”

“The Art of the National Parks” was put together by Fifty-Nine Parks, a group that works with artists to create screen-printed posters that portray the variegated bluffs of the Badlands and the Seussian flora of Joshua Tree National Park, among other wonders.

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The works feel like a modern take on the coaxing posters that the government began commissioning in the 1930s (“Visit the National Parks,” urged a 1940 silk-screen print depicting a waterfall under a pleasantly undulating mountain range). The artists use an array of styles to explore what makes these destinations unique.

“Our goal has always been simple,” writes JP Boneyard, the Fifty-Nine Parks creative director. “Get park nerds into posters and poster nerds into the parks.” And let’s not forget about conservation: The group has raised more than $100,000 for the preservation of public lands.

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Here is a selection of art and facts from the new book:

Stephanie Merry is editor of Book World

The Art of the National Parks

By Weldon Owen, Theresa Pierno and JP Boneyard

Earth Aware Editions. 176 pp. $45

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