2013 Tortuga Beach Festival



Rubén Santurián used it to create murals at Tortuga Festival

Por Melvin Félix

Ruben Santurian, an architect and artist who grew up in Argentina and now lives in Weston, does not need his birthday presents to be wrapped in gift-wrapping paper -he prefers them crammed inside a black trash bag.

This Argentine aged 51 -who created two murals made up of beach garbage during the Tortuga Music Festival this past weekend- has been collecting trash and reusing it to create murals and art works for more than a decade.

"The best gift my friends give me  is a bag full of bottle caps or some garbage that they found useful,” said Santurian, who was born in Uruguay but claims to be 100% Argentine, since he only spent 10 days in that country before leading his life in Buenos Aires.
In fact, it was in the Argentine capital city where he acquired his passion for collecting all kinds of trash to give them a new life. He began his hobby in 2000, after seeing how those materials used to prepare traditional Argentine “asados” (or barbecues) were thrown out.
"When I would cook “asados” on Sundays for my family, I went to the market to look for wooden crates containing lettuce and other vegetables. And I realized that those crates were thrown out [with the trash] after being used,” he said. “I wondered how it could be that it takes so long for a tree to grow and at the end they are used to transport vegetables and then, they finish with the trash.”

Therefore, Santurian began to use the wood of the crates to start the fire for the barbecue on Sundays -and later, he became more creative. "Then I started to make objects with the crates and to incorporate different kinds of trash: toys, other pieces of wood and plastic ... things that will not rot," he said.

Since then he has been recognized by Louisiana State University Union Gallery and he received the "green artist" award during ArtExpo 2009, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. His works have also been shown at the Art Basel in Miami.
Last Sunday he arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park and spent seven hours composing two murals created with trash collected from the beaches of Florida by high school students from the South Plantation High. "It is amazing because you can find everything: credit cards, bottle caps, syringes, plastics, acrylic pieces, toys, wires, nails, pipes, plumbing parts," he said.

Although he receives objects from friends who know about his passion, sometimes Santurian also looks for materials in places where people discard remnants of plumbing material, even in domestic recycling trashcans. He says his work is similar to that of the so-called scavenger (“cartoneros”) who roam the streets of Argentina during the night, gathering garbage that can be reused and selling it wholesale the next day.
"United States is ideal for what I do because it is a very consumerist country. In Weston, when there is some event or any celebration like Christmas, it is impressive to see the amount of toys that are discarded. Those are the occasions when I collect most of the material," he said.

When he is not working on murals, Santurian, who graduated as an architect at the University of Buenos Aires, is busy directing three companies that assist customers to manage their properties in South Florida. But no matter how busy he is, he says, he sleeps less, works less and enjoys less time with his family just to have more time to create with trash.

"The concept and the message of the art I produce is just awareness," he said, "is a way to show that trash can be used to build not to destroy"