Muniz first creates installations, or “paints” with materials such as sugar, peanut butter, or junk. He then photographs the piece to complete the final artwork. The photos at first look like portraits or collages, but at a closer glance, one will start to recognize elements of trash, including oil barrels, buckets, washing machines, toilet seat covers, and bottles. Some of the pieces take up entire warehouse floors—something that isn’t evident just by looking at one of the photographs. It’s not until an object is recognized in the heap of the composition that the scale becomes clear.
Muniz creates tableaus of portraits, but also recreates well known artworks such as the Death of Marat, Medusa the Gorgon, Andy Warhol pieces, and even The Last Supper. Using garbage, a bucket becomes an ear, or can make up the larger plane of an arm or hair.
Muniz’s work brings attention to our waste problem, but this is done more poignantly so in the documentary WASTE LAND. In the film, the artist created several large scale pieces with the aid of catadores; a subculture of scavengers in the giant Jardim Gramacho landfill in his native Brazil. The film not only celebrates Muniz’s beautiful recycled art, but also brings awareness to ever-growing landfills, and the people who spend their days sifting through them.