Who is Daniel Lanzilotta?
Earthling. Sack of bones covered in a package of flesh.
A collection of temporary cells expressing itself just the same as all living expressions. As I have learned I am a different expression of you and everyone else.
I am a flavor. I see the world as flavors.
What is an environmental artist?
An environmental artist is a person that observes their environment as they exist in time and space. I observe how nature and manmade environments clash or attempt to work together.
In that relationship or lack of a relationship. When nature and manmade environments clash, there is fallout. That fallout expresses itself as waste. We as human beings are an expression of the universe and earth herself holistically speaking. We are complete biological systems. We consume, we process and we eliminate waste.
The waste in our environment is what I usually use to bring attention to: the unbridled and out of control debris that is choking the earth in rivers, streams, lakes and especially our oceans.
As an environmental artist, my mission is to bring significance to the seemingly insignificant and to bring it back to how humans treat each other. If we can’t learn to respect each other how can we expect to treat our planet with respect? Litter is nothing more than an act of disrespect.
I use art that can and does stand on its own merits to bring awareness of global issues of consumption.
How did you start?
I started innocently by making little odd assemblages in Southwestern France on the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz.
I lived there for several years, minutes away from the ocean and I would go with my son who was three years old at the time. He would play and I would collect debris. That was the late 90’s.
I kept finding lots of plastic. I didn’t think much of it. Then as time went on, I started going to the beach without my son. I realized that there was a problem. At that time, the debris was up to my ankle. In 2014 I went to France to create a body of work. I arrived on November 5, 2014 and started making sculptures on November 6th.
The debris at times was then just below my knee. The increase was mind blowing.
Why in your opinion is plastic the worst thing that ever happened to humanity?
Plastic isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened.
I am not against plastic.
Plastic isn’t going away any time soon.
I use plastic too. I am very aware of my consumption and what I choose to buy.
We can’t escape it now. It is literally in everything we do as humans.
What we can do is limit in small steps until we can get to a place where we are so cognizant about our choices that we can perhaps have a “zero waste” life style.
I am about how we see objects and the objectification of the things in our lives.
We say we love our cars. We say we love our shoes. We say we love our cell phones. We objectify our stuff. We have a hard time saying we love our fellow human being.
Plastic will evolve as the demand for it decreases and manufacturers and science see that we need plastics that can be more easily recycled and sustainable.
This is happening but we have further to go.
Would you consider your art political?
It can be. If you understand that all plastics as we know them are manufactured by using fossil fuels. Crude oil. Crude oil is a political issue. We invade countries to get It. Send young people off to secure those territories. We build pipelines through sacred lands of indigenous peoples. We rape the land to frack and pollute ground water. Follow plastics backward and you will find the money.
Yes, it certainly can be political.
Every time we use plastic we contribute to its procurement.
That means we are dependent on foreign governments and market manipulations to get crude oil solely for the trinkets in “dollar stores”. It’s far more than that. From Ferrari, high end cars to plastic straws we are drowning in fossil fuels.
Have you ever had your own art exhibition?
Yes! I am featured in three shows in three different states as we speak.
I have had shows in France, New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the list is expanding as we speak.
Talk to us about your totem that was at one of Warhol’s exhibit?
My totem was made in Biarritz France mostly from ocean debris and some street debris from Paris and New York.
It is about ritual and the lack of it in our daily modern lives.
I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and they were having an alumni show at the Miller Gallery. Andy went to Carnegie Mellon. He had a piece in the show. I was lucky enough to get picked. I was living in Connecticut at the time.
I crated it up and shipped it to Pittsburgh.
What is your creation process? For example, for your head pieces.
My creation process is to live my life in the environment and as I go about my day I see thousands of pieces of debris in the environment. From loose litter on the roads to trash pickup on the sidewalk.
I am never lacking for materials to make art.
I collect what I find to have an interesting spirit or use. Can I render it to be something other than itself? That is the Gestalt of what I do. What can this object become? What other purpose is there for it?
I deconstruct those items and I play with them and start to manipulate the object.
I make dozens of pieces before I even know what I will use.
Sometimes as in the case of a hat or headdress I know I want to create a hat. So, I will start with a base that speaks to me and I go from there applying pieces I have previously made. Sometimes I will make pieces to apply as the need arises.
I am constantly making parts for a future use.
How long does it take to create a piece of art from a water bottle?
I use mostly heavier plastics from laundry detergents and other bottles such as these.
I tend to not use water bottles per se. I use water bottle caps.
A piece can be completed in a few days or several months depending on the complexity.
Other times I just let them sit for a while. Because I make pieces first and keep at it constantly I wind up spending most of my time assembling a piece.
What do you think about when you are creating your art?
I am thinking about nothing other than what I am doing. I am completely involved and creating problems to solve. I challenge myself to develop better technical skills and to push the use of the materials. What happens is that the materials tell me what to do. All plastics have their own personality and chemistry.
I am constantly learning from the work. I am mindful of the purpose and enjoy the process with an idea in a flexible sense.
It’s a journey to take with each piece because of the technical aspect of what I do.
I am seeking beauty all along the way.
Daniel in depth. Is Daniel Lanzilotta more of a private chef than an artist?
I am a person that puts a lot of thought and consideration into everything I do. If I am making my bed it is going to be ritual and have an artistic intent. I make an awesome bed.
Here is where we, as a society have lost our way. We no longer do things for ourselves. We hire others to do what a person used to do.
We buy prepared foods.
We buy clothes off the rack.
We buy $5.00 coffees because brewing a pot of coffee is so difficult.
We have others clean our homes and cars.
We send our laundry out.
We buy can, frozen foods and microwave everything.
I am a maker.
I am very skilled in many trades and crafts.
Cooking at home or professionally is no different than making sculptures. It is the intention behind it.
Food preparation is about flavors, textures, temperatures, mouth feel, visual impact, composition, smell and even sound. Those same principles apply to art and design in all disciplines.
I don’t fracture myself or my method of thinking as food in the modern world is part of my work as an environmentalist. The ocean is one of our greatest resources of food. I am a spokesperson for the oceans and I cast a light on how we are destroying them. Food packaging, food transportation, food politics, food waste, food production and farming especially are all part of my vision and the earth’s health at large.
It is about creating one’s own world with doing as little harm as possible to the “in between”. The time we get here on earth.
We are supposed to be stewards of our planet.
Food and art are life giving forces. I see myself as its conduit.
Any project, exhibition, or talk in the horizon?
Yes! I am one of three featured artists in Thompson Hospitality’s Unity Magazine’s Sustainable Issue. That comes out in June.
I have two pieces in two different states and nine sculptures in a show in Connecticut.
I am doing a debris arts workshop for kids and parents in June.
I have a radio interview in Connecticut in two weeks.
And an article in conjunction with the show in Connecticut.
I am looking for representation for galleries in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
I just finished an 18 month interior construction job doing fine woodworking and now doing an apartment in Brooklyn.
I work with all materials from metal, wood, marble, stone, ceramics. I prefer artsy projects.