Arts & Entertainment

Bolivian artist creating sculptures from used tires to raise environmental awareness

By Gina Baldivieso

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Jun 4 (EFE).- He uses tires from bicycles or motorized vehicles, transforming them into dinosaurs, armadillos and even the fearsome xenomorph from the film “Alien.” Sandro Arellano is creating the rubber sculptures to raise the public’s environmental awareness, especially among the younger generations.

Based in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba, Arellano told EFE that he graduated from that city’s Institute of Plastic Arts and has devoted himself to creating sculpture for the past 24 years.

He got the idea of using used tires to make art during the Covid-19 pandemic quarantine.

“Since we were locked down, I saw the possibility of transforming this material that has polymers that (aren’t affected by) water or rain,” he said.

Upon seeing the huge number of bicycle, motorcycle and vehicle tires discarded along the streets of Cochabamba, Arellano got the idea of giving them a “new life” by turning them into “high traffic” sculptures.

The animals and fictional characters he makes “are eco-environmental” and nature-friendly, and his aim is to help reduce pollution and foster the idea of “recycling trash.”

Arellano obtains his material on the streets and also goes to “cyclists” or bike repair businesses to buy tires that are no longer usable.

The artist pays a cyclist one boliviano, equivalent to about $0.14, for each tire he buys, a move that is also an incentive to them not to just throw their punctured or unwanted tires out on the street.

He uses expanded polystyrene as a filler in his sculptures and covers it with the tires to provide the appropriate shape to each sculpture.

The internal structure of each work is made firm with screws so that it holds together well and, once he’s achieved the desired shape, he uses “automotive paints” to color it.

“Since tires have polymers, they are resistant to sunlight and to water, and I can guarantee they’ll hold up for about 20 years,” he said.

The combination of materials makes his works easy to transport because they are very light and, at the same time, they are sufficiently strong to support the weight of up to three people, in some cases, he said.

One of his creations is an Andean “quirquincho,” or armadillo, about of about 70 centimeters (2.3 feet) long and made with bike tires and plastic thread to simulate the hairs that the animal has on its shell.

Arellano proudly said that he took the sculpture to the city of Oruro in February for the anniversary of the revolution against Spanish colonialism in that Andean region, and that thousands of people sat on top of the “quirquincho” to have their photos taken without it suffering any damage.

Among his largest sculptures is a long-necked dinosaur some 3.7 meters long by 1.9 meters high (12.1 feet by 6.1 feet), on which three adults can sit.

The artist combines the different textures of the tires to achieve specific effects in the faces and skin of his works, using smaller tires for the mouth and more delicate parts of a given dino and other less wrinkled tires for its neck and skin.

He also made a model of the xenomorph, the scary otherworldly creature from “Alien,” using “more delicate” tires for the body and others with different textures to achieve a rougher effect on the tail as well as covering the head with plastic resin to make it completely smooth.

Another sculpture is titled “Aliento de vida” (Breath of life), depicting a human figure wearing a kind of mask with a respirator to evoke the period during which the pandemic was in full swing.

Arellano said that initially he made the sculptures with the aim of selling them, but upon seeing the impact the message he was trying to deliver was having, he decided to create an ecological park where they can be put on display and also promote a culture of recycling among “the younger generations.”

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