Düsseldorf, Germany — Italian artist Lady Be turns discarded plastic toys, pens and buttons into modern mosaic tiles that she configures into iconic portraits appreciated as both pop art and creatively reused plastics.
Formally known as Letizia Lanzarotti, the Rome-based artist first fashioned her palette of polymer pieces into the likeness of Marilyn Monroe when she was 19. Pleased with the process and the outcome, she gave up brushes and paints for an array of plastic fragments in all hues collected from beaches, friends and flea markets.
Now, at age 29, Lady Be has a prolific portfolio of polymer portraits inspired by political, historical, cinematic and scientific leaders like Andy Warhol, Mona Lisa, Nelson Mandela, Nikola Tesla and Audrey Hepburn. She will dedicate a piece to the plastics industry at K 2019, which she is attending Oct. 16-19 with Amaplast, an Italian association of plastics and rubber processing machinery and molds manufacturers.
"I will complete an artwork: the portrait of Sebastian Vettel, the German racing driver, with Ferrari, an Italian luxury sports car manufacturer based in Maranello," Lady Be told Plastics News. "I have chosen a subject that would be the perfect blending of Italian and German excellence."
At K 2019, which wraps up Oct. 23, Italy is the second-largest exhibiting nation — behind only the host country — with almost 400 companies represented, including 330 machinery and plant manufacturers.
Germany is also one of Italy's principal trade partners, although the relationship is experiencing some financial bumps with the slowdown in Germany's industrial sector and global turbulence politically and economically, including problems related to the automotive sector and plastic's public image.
The supply of Italian machinery to German processors fell 26 percent year over year, while imports from Germany declined by a third, according to midyear statistics.
Lady Be is attending K 2019 as part of an Amaplast campaign to support and promote Italian exhibitors at a time when "current market conditions are not encouraging," according to Dario Previero, president of Amaplast.
One facet of the campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and environmental sustainability.
"My art was born not only as creative form, but as awareness to the problem of recycling," Lady Be said. "It's a warning to the actual and future world, a world … that fights against the tendency to consumerism and waste [and] the accumulation of disposable things increasingly difficult to dispose of."
At K 2019, Lady Be will finish her piece featuring Formula One racer Vettel, who drives for Scuderia Ferrari SpA, which is the racing division of the luxury Italian carmaker. Vettel, a four-time Formula One world champion, is regarded by many as one of the finest drivers in the history of the sport, while Ferrari has been a symbol of speed and luxury for 80 years.
With these two subjects, Lady Be gives a nod to the decades of driving, design and manufacturing skills of Germany and Italy, but she hopes K 2019 attendees see something more.
"Through my art, I want to send a message in support of recycling and sustainability, making people who work at the head of the plastics industry aware of the fact that everything can have a second life and can be recycled in many ways, and that even garbage, the most humble matter, can become the thing that more than anything else elevates us spiritually: art."