Artist creates beautiful works of art from trash for the NYC Sanitation Department

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ByJim Dolan via WABC logo
Thursday, June 2, 2022
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In a city that prides itself for its big creative community of artists, it shouldn't be so surprising that one person's trash can be another person's ... art. Jim Dolan has the story.

WOODSIDE, Queens (WABC) -- In a city that prides itself for its big creative community of artists, it shouldn't be so surprising that one person's trash can be another person's ... art.

There is a place, deep in the dark, cavernous reaches of the sanitation department's garage in Woodside, Queens that's so filled with light and beauty, you might think it's misplaced. But it's exactly where it belongs.

"Currently I'm making everything through a sanitation lens," sTo Len said.

sTo Len is the sanitation department's artist in residence. His job and his obsession are finding beauty in the trash.

"There's a lot of magic in the mundane, there is a magic in the flow system that the sanitation department does to get your garbage to where it needs to go, there's a choreography to it, that's beautiful actually, there's beauty in the signs," he said.

The signs, old ones especially, are a bit of a focus for some of sTo's work these days.

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A dollop of paint here, and another over there, and in an old school silkscreen construct, he has married his modern style with the artisans of the past.

"I've used the old designs but then I created my own marbling on top and I added my own different colors," he said.

The artist rooted around in old drawers and closets and found old sanitation film and videotape from as far back as 1908 and he's using that in his work as well.

"For me it was about absorbing and embodying the role of sanitation, through the labor, through the visual language, through the people and then I could respond through artwork," sto Len said.

His assignment with sanitation will last a year and is paid for, in part by the city's cultural affairs department.

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