array of exhaust-stained paper


Christopher McNulty, 2009
Paper and exhaust pipe residue, series of 141 elements, 6″ x 6″ each
Image © 2015, courtesy of Saltworks Gallery, Atlanta and the artist

Stain (Detail: 20 March 2008)

Christopher McNulty, 2009
Paper and exhaust pipe residue, 6″ x 6″
Image © 2015, courtesy of Saltworks Gallery, Atlanta and the artist

About the Artist

For his project entitled “Stain,” Christopher McNulty transformed his exhaust pipe into a drawing tool in order to document his driving footprint. Each day that he drove during the year, McNulty placed a fresh piece of paper over his car’s tailpipe, producing a series of 141 stain drawings, each a unique product of the length of trip, the speed of the car, the ambient temperature and other variables. McNulty presents his series of daily marks as a confession of sorts, and leaves us to imagine the impact of millions of exhaust pipes worldwide. His work challenges us to make our mark on the world in a way that preserves it for future generations.

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  • A glimpse into the process:

    car with paper over tailpipe

    Stain, 2009, (in process), Image © 2015, courtesy of Saltworks Gallery, Atlanta and the artist

    In the artist’s words:

    “This project was created using a steel device that attached to my car’s tailpipe and filtered my automotive exhaust. Over a year’s time, I placed a 6” by 6” piece of paper in the device each day that I drove my car to create a drawing. The resulting series of over 140 works explores the tension between the ambition to “make a mark” on the world and the backpacking ethic to “leave no trace.”  The tension is at once existential and ecological, raising questions about the place of art and human beings in the natural world. On the one hand, the work confronts viewers with the damage that we create, outside our field of vision, as we drive. At the same time, the work implicates me, documenting my moral inconsistency and undermining any pretense of virtuousness.”

  • From Global Footprint Network:

    Emissions from cars not only pollute but substantially add to the Ecological Footprint. The carbon footprint, a large portion linked to transport, makes up 54% of humanity’s demand on nature. This piece of art makes evident that driving comes at an environmental cost.

  • Reserved for art-interpretive content.

  • Featured Actions:

    * Ditch your car and use public transit when possible.  Better yet, get outside and walk or ride a bike to your destination.

    Carpool when possible

    Reduce your car trips by planning ahead and consolidating your errands

    I pledge to reduce my driving by using public transit, biking and walking!I pledge to carpool!I pledge to reduce my car trips by planning ahead and consolidating my errands!

    * Your pledge will be counted in Earth Day Network’s “A Billion Acts of Green” campaign.  Learn more about this campaign here.

  • What is the major factor that would deter you from buying an electric car?  See what others are saying about electric car-buying here.