Here’s the story behind New Bedford’s 20-foot-tall ‘Plastic Rooster’ made of trash

Here’s the story behind New Bedford’s 20-foot-tall ‘Plastic Rooster’ made of trash

Portuguese artist Bordalo II collaborated with 11th-grade Metal Fabrication students from the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, who built the structure from steel and wood.

Cate McQuaid

The Boston Globe, Published June 17, 2024
Full article HERE.
NEW BEDFORD — There’s a new rooster in town, and he’s close to 20 feet tall and kind of trashy. Portuguese artist Bordalo II’s “Plastic Rooster” sits beside the New Bedford YMCA, the centerpiece of Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute’s (DATMA) “TRANSFORM: Reduce, Revive, Reimagine” public-art initiative through Oct. 14. The rooster will be around through 2029.

Bordalo has traveled the world, from Bora Bora to Montreal, painting and building gaudy, charismatic animal sculptures out of waste materials. He was in town in mid-June putting finishing touches on “Plastic Rooster.” The giant bird is clad in nautical refuse, plastic, street signs, and more collected by locals. He wears a plastic penguin under his beak like a bowtie, and his talons are cut from bright-pink safety cones.

“It seems that trash is not trash,” Bordalo said. “Trash is something that is the end of the life. We gave it another life. So it was not trash. We were wrong.”

Where to find him:

Age: 36

Originally from: Lisbon, Portugal, where he lives and works.

How he started: “My grandfather, he was an artist. I was really young and I always tried to dig into his studio and steal his paints and draw stuff.”

The artist, whose first name is Artur, calls himself “Bordalo II” as a tribute to his grandfather, Real Bordalo. At 11, the younger Bordalo became a graffiti artist.

“It shaped the person I am, the way we do everything,” he said. “Not being afraid to risk, to really do it. The scale. The sense of how it connects with the street.”

Turning to more official public art came much later. “Ten years ago I decided, ‘I will do this.’ It’s difficult to start. It’s even more difficult to jump,” Bordalo said. “I know I’m lucky, but I’m also a maniac.”

What he makes: The artist’s lighthearted characters carry messages about over-consumption and conservation. “With the big trash animals, it’s like you make portraits of the victims with what destroys them or their habitats,” he said.

How he works: “Plastic Rooster” was commissioned by DATMA, which has partnered with local landfill management departments and the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School to involve the community.

Bordalo sent his rooster image to the school’s 11th-grade Metal Fabrication students, who built the structure from steel and wood.

“After that we have a list of plastic trash materials that we know we’re going to need, and we ask the local production team to collect all those materials,” Bordalo said. “My team starts to cover it, to make the first skin. I join them in the middle of the process, and I make more skin, more volumes, all the details. I make the head, the eyes, the nose.”

Advice for artists: “Don’t get distracted smoking joints or thinking that it’s just about connections. You really need to put your hands on it. It’s about work, work, work, work. And see. It’s very important to see what others are doing to get inspiration.”

TRANSFORM: Reduce, Revive, Reimagine

Public art and programming presented around New Bedford by Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute through Oct. 14.