Issue #29

Rolando Politi

Lo Spazzino

I was born in 1943 (Milan), a mistake of the war! My mother was a refugee and father an officer. We escaped to the deep south and my life in Italy was spent mainly in Naples before emigrating. I am not a schooled artist but I have been inspired to create from my life experiences. I had been living on the fringes of society and having an innate social consciousness I was involved in activism, not thinking about art! I came to the US at the end of the seventies and settled in New York’s Lower East Side where I am to date. Now, I’m a 71 year old man involved in public art focusing on the waste reduction issue.

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What do you do in your life (work and fun)?

Now, I am acting as the export manager for an Indian co-operative of all women waste pickers. Basically, I trained them in the benefit and value of added creations from waste and they now create objects in a super way, much better than I ever could have done by myself! For relaxation, I have an ongoing public project at a Lower East Side garden where I decorate the fence top with sculptures created with packaging waste!

What made you leave Italy and chose NYC?

At the time I left Italy it was about the end of the so called “lead years”! The social and political situation was at a low point and my personal standing as an activist was not good. I was told by good friends that in the Lower East Side of Manhattan an entire neighborhood was being emptied by landlords who burned buildings to collect the insurance and escape elsewhere! It was an ideal situation for the pioneer spirit which I had, and the chance to make a fresh start!

Please share your best memory in the City.

Memories are many having lived here for over three decades. It is a city where anything goes. One of my most interesting and hilarious experiences was when with a large group of people we organized a party takeover in a subway train! We rode from Manhattan to Coney Island on the F orange line, dancing, singing, many of us in costume. Waking people up. The train did stop but then it continued on to Coney Island in true New York acceptance of the bizarre style!

What made you choose this specific location and outfit?

The location for the shoot was the La Plaza garden in the Lower East Side. I chose this location because it is the site where I have been installing public sculptures for the past 14 years. They are all flower-like whimsical assemblies of packaging waste. I called them “winter flowers” since winter is the best viewing time when nature sleeps and only these sculptures stand out on the fence top! I also picked a costume, an old and torn coattail tuxedo as a reminder of my past performances in a trash worship circus.

Your thought about this project, ITALIANY.US

ITALIANY is an interesting project, bringing together all the different reasons for immigration to a world city like New York! It can be even more helpful if in the sum of all the reasons we find a common thread of “why” artists and designers left their origins for the new life!

How would you describe being an ambassador of the italian style/culture abroad?

In my specific case, I never considered myself as an “ambassador”  of Italian style and culture except maybe for having in my DNA a certain amount of originality, creativity and improvisation common to most Italians.

  • Manhattan, NY


  • Time

    120 mins

  • Shots


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A visual celebration of Italians working, living and loving in NY and in the US