Painter Christine Finley first came to Rome on an artist’s grant in 2008, and in the years since, she’s seen one of her most unlikely side projects take off: covering standard-issue city dumpsters with ornate patterned wallpaper. “The dumpster is an incredibly ugly object in the landscape,” she says, “and turn[ing] it into a work of art — you just feel it. Whether you’re 8 or you’re 80 — everybody loves it.” Since then, she’s wallpapered 42 dumpsters in 12 cities around the world, but the project has grown the fastest — and the most meaningfully — in Rome. This past summer, Finley partnered with ReTake Roma, a nonprofit that organizes neighborhood cleanups around the city, and watched as her decorated dumpsters transformed into a symbol of environmental activism and community engagement. We chatted with her about the project, the contemporary art scene in Rome, and why garbagemen have become some of her biggest fans.
How did you get started with dumpsters?
I worked in the film industry as a set decorator and scenic painter [before coming to Rome] and collected wallpaper from various shoots. I was trying to figure out how to use this material when I was asked to participate in an installation at the port of Los Angeles. I worked in a 40-foot container for an entire week. The containers were all earth-toned so I wanted to disrupt this mono-tonality by wallpapering one with a baroque pattern. Then a few weeks later, a friend let me wallpaper his studio dumpster, and the rest is history.
Tell us more about your partnership with ReTake Roma.
ReTake Roma does a general cleanup of walls and store gates in different neighborhoods around the city, and they really had the juice and permission and all the right things in order to work with the government trash system, which is called Ama. This summer, Ama delivered dumpsters to them, and we worked together and it was reported in La Repubblica and then it went totally viral all over Italy, so much so that two different cities in Italy created festivals of decorating and designing your own dumpsters around the city. One was in Sardinia and one was in Lecce. They had cash prizes for the most creative dumpster, and people all over town were redoing their dumpsters and beautifying their neighborhood, which was a dream come true for me.
What have the reactions been to your dumpsters when people come upon them?
In Italy the response is really exciting. Once, a garbage-truck driver was coming to dump the bins when I was working on them outside. And he stopped the truck in the middle of the street to block traffic. He walked over to me, shook my hand, walked around the dumpster, and was just absolutely beside himself. Then he insisted on buying me a coffee and a pastry and told me how amazing I was and how I just totally made his day — blocking traffic the whole time, by the way.
Where are your favorite spots for contemporary art in Rome?
Some great places are the Cinema America Occupato, an abandoned theater in Trastevere that is currently occupied by students who are screening free movies every day and night. They also have workshops for theater and music with a library and study space with free Wi-Fi for all, with brilliant curating and events. Teatro Valle Occupato is another occupied theater that has a street-art focus with epic performances, and they also teach opera to children. And, of course, MACRO Testaccio and the Zaha Hadid building at Maxxi.
Most Viewed Stories
Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale, One Month Into the Trump Era
Why Did Everyone Act Like I Was Crazy When I Decided to Have a Baby in My 20s?
Woman Framed by Ex-Boyfriend’s Wife in Craigslist ‘Rape Fantasy’ Plot Speaks Out
Barbara Pierce Bush to Speak at Texas Planned Parenthood Fundraiser
Meryl Streep Issues Scathing Response to Karl Lagerfeld’s Oscar Dress Comments
Taylor Swift Is Not Going to Be Happy About This New Friendship
Missoni Grabs Back with Knitted Pink Pussy Hats at Milan Fashion Week
It Sure Looks Like Diane Kruger Is Dating Norman Reedus Now
Someone Paid $2,000 to Provide Us With This Terrible Billboard
Why the Casey Affleck Sexual-Harassment Allegations Just Won’t Stick
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.