The ebb and flow of Daniel Lanzilotta

The medium used by artist Daniel Lanzilotta is colorful.

The shapes that it takes and that the Connecticut artist takes it are idiosyncratic. The shapes follow an ebb and flow that is more organic than geometric.

The ebb and flow of the shapes that Lanzilotta molds from his chosen material is appropriate given his message and his chosen media.

Lanzilotta’s art is shaped from plastic trash that he rescues from along the highways and bodies of water. And the underlying message of his art is how this plastic is destroying the world’s waterways as it is carried from places like the parking lot of your local coffee shop into the ebb and flow of the world’s rivers and further on into the Earth’s oceans.

Lanzilotta, whose sculptures made from this plastic trash is currently on display at the Westport Arts Center and will be shown next in the Bird’s Nest Salon and Gallery in Guilford, explained. “I’m an environmentalist first.”

“I speak to the issue of plastic debris in the oceans and what is happening in the ocean,” he explained. “There is way too much plastic in the ocean… that plastic is being eaten by marine life.”

“Trash is literally everywhere. It’s a never-ending problem,” said Lanzilotta. “I like to say ‘plastic’ has the word ‘last’ in it.”

Although, Lanzilotta’s concern for the environment served as one of the spark for his creations, he explained, “The art on its own has taken on a life separate from the environmental stuff.” And he said people are intrigued by the art before they realize that the raw material from which it is shaped is 99.9 percent plastic trash.

His love for the environment is just one source of inspiration for Lanzilotta. A great sadness also drives the Connecticut artist.

Lanzilotta explained that the work he creates was inspired by “a horrible tragedy five years ago this month (when my ex-girlfriend’s) daughter (Tess Meisel) was tragically taken.”

“In honor of her, I decided to make art again,” said Lanzilotta.

The environmental dimension of the work also happens to be a tribute to Tess’s honor.

“(Tess) was an award winning environmentalist at 11 years old,” said Lanzilotta.

Tess won a prize in 2009 at Connecticut’s Invention Convention for her environmentally friendly invention—a reusable, renewable pizza box and tray.

“Through her loss,” said Lanzilotta, “I decided I would continue on with her vision and make sure she’s not forgotten. I use her as an inspiration.”

Most recently, Lanzilotta was seen walking in the Trashion Fashion show in Hartford’s City Hall wearing a hat he made from reclaimed plastic. And the hats have become a fashionable dimension to his work.

The decision to make hats out of this trash also was inspired by Tess. Tess, like her mother, was fond of collecting vintage hats.

Regarding the creative process behind the art and hats, Lanzilotta said he rescues the raw material from along highways or the beach. From there, he said, “The materials will speak to me.” And they will take shape, he said.

Through practice and experimentation, Lanzilotta said he has learned each kind of plastic has its own personality. He also has learned how the plastics react to heat and how they react to mechanical manipulation. This knowledge guides the eventual shape of the pieces, he said.

Among the next projects Lanzilotta will undertake is participation in the NGO Sustainability “Sustainable Clothing Fashion Show” on Tuesday, Oct. 18 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the New York headquarters of Tesla Motors.

Lanzilotta’s artwork is on display at the Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Ave., Westport through Aug. 20.

The show at the Bird’s Nest Salon and Gallery, 25 Water St., Guilford will be the subject of a reception Saturday, Aug. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information about Daniel Lanzilotta, go to DanielLanzilotta.com

Model: Julissa Ragunauth

Hair/ Makeup: Allure of Southington

Photography: Mike Chaiken