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Claudio Garzón’s Recycled Art: It’s Full of Trash

by Janine Boylan on April 22, 2013

Claudio Garzón at work, showing his creative idea for recycled art

Claudio Garzón carefully paints one of his sculptures.
© Claudio Garzón

A Creative Idea for Ocean Plastic

Claudio Garzón cherishes the waterways around his home. He walks along the L.A. River nearly every day and collects things that catch his eye. But he’s not picking up colorful rocks or interesting shells—he’s picking up plastic garbage.

Ocean Plastic Facts

Most of the trash in the ocean and on the beaches is plastic. Unlike paper or wood debris, most plastic never completely biodegrades. Instead it breaks into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces until it isn’t easily seen. But it’s there.

plastic trash collected by Claudio Garzón, which, with a creative idea, will become recycled art

Garzón picked up this plastic from the banks of the LA River—in one day.
© Claudio Garzón

Fish can ingest the plastic debris, and, since they cannot digest it, it stays in their stomachs. Sea creatures can become entangled in plastic and get harmed or even drown. And it is likely that the chemicals in plastic are being transferred to marine life, which in turn can pass to you through the food chain.

baby turtle by Claudio Garzón, showing a creative idea for recycled art

A tiny turtle-bot
© Claudio Garzón

An OIC Moment

This type of information concerns Garzón. Not only does he want to keep the plastic out of the ocean, but he wants to educate others about its harmful effects.

As Garzón was preparing to instruct a summer art class, he remembered reading about a soldier who created art from bottle caps. It was Garzón’s Oh, I See moment—he could incorporate environmental education into his lessons by having students create art from trash.

This course developed into several others, including a multiweek class for children in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles.

He simultaneously began turning his own creative ideas into PlasTikobots, science fiction robots, created entirely from the plastic he found. Study his sculptures closely, and Oh, you’ll see the plastic Legos, bottle caps, combs, and more.

hammerhead shark by Claudio Garzón, showing a creative idea for recycled art

A hammerhead shark made of over 70 different kinds of plastic pieces.
© Claudio Garzón

Many of Garzón’s PlasTikobots are modeled after sea creatures, particularly turtles and sharks, reflecting his passion for the ocean. As part of his education programs, his nonprofit organization, Save Oceans and Seas, helps spread the word about protecting these sea creatures from the trash that his art is made of.

pre-painted art by Claudio Garzón, showing a creative idea for recycled art

Before paint is applied
© Claudio Garzón

The Creative Process

When Garzón is inspired or commissioned to make a creature, he heavily researches the real animal to understand how it is shaped and how it functions. Then, when he has a clear vision, he searches his garage full of found plastic for just the right elements to cut and build. The final step is to meticulously paint the creature. He explains that he spends a lot of time on the turtle eyes to give them perfect wise and soulful looks.

leatherback turtle by Claudio Garzón, showing a creative idea for recycled art

A leatherback turtle created for a charity auction
© Claudio Garzón

Making a Difference

While Garzón displays his work regularly at art galleries and donates his work to charities like Heal the Bay, his passion is teaching children how they can make a change and keep the ocean clean.

Through his Oh, I see moment, Garzón uses creative ideas to turn trash into recycled art and educational opportunites.

How will you be inspired to make a change this Earth Day, April 22?

baby turtles by Claudio Garzón, showing a creative idea for recycled art

Turtle hatchlings
© Claudio Garzón

Garzón’s students will be displaying their work on April 26, 2013, at the Gallery Expo 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, CA from 4-8pm.

To reuse plastic you may accumulate, download these 10 Practical and Creative Ideas.


Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


3 thoughts on “Claudio Garzón’s Recycled Art: It’s Full of Trash

  1. Love this article I am using Claudio as an artist for my Year 9 students in our sculpture class, in South Auckland New Zealand.
    Fabulous ideas that inspire my students, thank you

  2. Get Your Baby Sea Turtle Sculptures by Claudio
    Claudio now has his baby sea turtle sculptures made from repurposed debris found on the beach available. Every one you get is different, just like the real baby sea turtles in the wild.

    Order yours now; proceeds from each sea turtle made is distributed between three oceannon-profits.


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