South Florida artist making treasure out of trash, using social media to spread word

MIAMI – When Local 10 News first launched Don’t Trash Our Treasure on Earth Day 2021, we did so with the intention of engaging more people to be mindful about how and where they dispose of their waste and hopefully be more conscious of the environmental footprint their everyday choices leave behind.

On Wednesday, we featured a celebrated and collected local artist, who’s taken that same mission to a whole new level, turning street litter into highly valued works of art.

If you look closely around Miami, you can see eyes everywhere, from signs to skyscrapers to busses to art galleries.

It’s the work of Cuban-American artist David Anasagasti, aka “Ahol Sniffs Glue.”

“I dedicated my complete, entire space to him, because he’s really the artist I’ve been looking for,” said Frame Art Brickell owner Alfred Zayden.

His paintings sell for upwards of $10,000, but, if you’re lucky, you can also find his art on the street for free. This is an integral component of “Geographies of Trash,” a project that Anasagatsi launched during the pandemic.

“I got on a bike and I started loving the high of getting out there,” he said. “And just that pureness of getting back in touch with, like, the city, going around it and seeing all these different things, and I saw a bunch of trash.”

The eyes of the artist saw beyond the litter, and instead perceived new canvases with which to create his art -- turning trash into treasure, right there on the spot.

Art collectors quickly caught on.

“I have pieces scattered throughout my backyard and my garden, like big rocks and signage and tires,” said collector Alec Constantin. “If you walk into my house, pretty much every inch of the walls, ceilings, and furniture even, was formerly trashed. And now it’s art at my house.”

Local 10 News’ Louis Aguirre hit the heavily littered streets of Little Havana with Anasagatsi to see how it all goes down in real time.

“There’s plenty of stuff to paint on here that could be picked up. You can’t obviously pick up everything, but we’re trying, dude,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we find some couches, some wall units, some more larger stuff. Usually the big pieces of trash are right by signs that say no dumping.”

Once Anasagatsi finds the perfect piece, he paints it, takes a picture, and then posts it on social media.

Just by posting the picture with an emoji, that’s enough for collectors to seek them out.

“You see already the reactions that are happening in real time,” he said after posting an image of his latest work. Within minutes, someone showed up.

“Probably like 15 seconds,” Little Havana resident Guilermo Ortas said when asked how long it took him to recognize where the piece was located.

That is precisely the art of Geographies of Trash. With each piece, the artist challenges people to look at trash differently, to be more conscious about the waste being left behind and how everyone can be more mindful about how it’s disposed.

“It’s a very creative and different way of getting a very weird pieces of trash off the street that, you know, it’s everywhere,” said Ortas.

The ongoing installation caught the eye of Florida International University’s Ratcliffe Art and Design Incubator.

Since 2021, the university has been working to identify collectors and archive exactly where their pieces were found.

“Archaeology digs into somebody else’s trash, historical trash. We find places after the city was destroyed, after the city was burned down or whatever it is,” said Jacek J. Kolasinski, the executive director of the Ratcliffe Art and Design Incubator and an associate professor of digital media at FIU. “Today, I think with David’s project, we’re documenting relation of trash and finding meaning to it to through stories of the people who are active citizens of our kind of community.

“So those stories are active -- they’re not just discovered by a scholar later on, but they’re recorded.”

Given the nature of the mixed media, some of the pieces may not hold up over time.

That’s why Anasagasti often rewards collectors with an NFT made from the original photo of the work, which includes the geographic data for where the trash was originally found.

Not only are the stories being recorded, but the effort is being widely recognized.

Earlier this year, the City of North Miami Beach proclaimed Jan. 23 as “Geographies of Trash Day.”

“I think this project really does that, reviving old things into treasures that people can really enjoy and really have an artist that has an amazing story that will empower the next generation to do even greater things,” said North Miami Beach Commissioner Daniella Jean.

The moment marked a milestone for the rebellious artist, who hopes his work goes beyond just inspiring young collectors and can also be a catalyst for real change.

“It’s been a fun process,” he said. “I feel that where I’m enjoying right now is showing heads that you can make something out of nothing. The platforms that we built for ourselves are really powerful and it’s how we use it, knowing when to use our voice.”

The Geographies of Trash is an ongoing project, because unfortunately, the litter problem isn’t going away any time soon.

If you’d like to get in on the scavenger hunt, follow @aholsniffsglue on all social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

About the Authors:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.