'Unsustainable Creatures'

Gladys, a life-size elephant with a vacuum cleaner hose for its trunk, is part of Los Angeles artist Cynthia Minet's animal caravan at Los Angeles International Airport's Tom Bradley terminal. (Panic Studio, Los Angeles / April 19, 2013)

A glowing red elephant, two blue-green oxen and an orange and pink camel trudge beside passengers as they exit the Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley Terminal. Closer inspection of the life-size sculptures reveals the elephant’s trunk to be a vacuum cleaner hose, an ox’s yoke to be the handle of a baby carrier and the camel’s hump to be a mixing bowl.

These are just some of Los Angeles sculptor Cynthia Minet’s raw materials, which when lighted by LEDs, suddenly take on an arresting glow.

“I wanted to draw a parallel between the burden of these pack animals and the burden we’re placing on the Earth,” Minet said of her work, on view until the end of September. The airport exhibition is the latest in her “Unsustainable Creatures” series.

PHOTOS: Cynthia Minet's animal caravan at LAX

Daughter of a chemical engineer, Minet has long been fascinated with science, but it was not until 2008 that she hit upon household plastics as her medium while working on an installation for a night club in Italy. Her sculptures had to be hardy enough for the outdoors, so the club owner suggested harvesting goods from the recycling facility next door.

“Bing! It just clicked!” Minet said.

The artist teaches life drawing, figure sculpture and 3-D design full-time at Moorpark College. Working after hours and on weekends, she takes about eight months or longer to finish each sculpture. Minet first projects an anatomically correct image on her studio wall, traces the animal’s musculature to ensure correct proportions and creates a skeleton using PVC pipe. She then clads this skeleton with found plastics. Finally, she laces in the LEDs.

For an upcoming Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, Minet is working on five Alaskan huskies that are pulling a sled piled high with plastic and lighted with the acid green and mustardy yellow of the Northern Lights.

“I hope that people will be touched by the representation of these animals,” Minet said, “and that they will be more aware of the consequences before they put something into the trash.”

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