WEB EXTRA: Taking Flight: Cynthia Minet on Art in Airports

Artist Cynthia Minet’s Packing(Caravan) lines a corridor at LAX, part of an on-going series of temporary exhibitions there featuring the work of local artists. Programs such as these have sprung up in airports around the country. Photography by Panic Studio, LA/courtesy Cynthia Minet. If you’re an artist, the chance to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, see your work is a chance too good to pass up. It was certainly true for Cynthia Minet, a Los Angeles sculptor, whose Packing(Caravan) was chosen for a temporary exhibition at LAX, as part of an on-going (and nationally growing) move to showcase art in airports. The installation would include a collection pack animals—a pair of oxen, an elephant, a camel—constructed from pieces of recycled and repurposed plastic. An outgrowth of her explorations of bioengineering, genetic modification, fashion consumerism, and ecology, the animals were witty, thoughtful and wholly apropos of their surroundings.

Creating and installing work for in a non-traditional habitat “was interesting as a sculptor, because I had to think about height and depth in a controlled environment,” says Minet. While the case, in the international terminal, where the pieces were to be displayed meant they’d be extra-protected, it also made installation a finely choreographed dance. “The camel was easy—it comes apart in many pieces,” says Minet. The elephant, too, ended up being made in several sections in order to have the “proper girth,” she notes, while still fitting through an alarmed door in a high-security area and into the case. “The pieces had to be made so we could open the door quickly, push them into vestibule, turn them and then close the door behind. It was a one-and-a-half-minute window,” she says.

Once inside, Minet worked backwards, installing the animals in reverse order, with the elephant and first ox going in last. All went smoothly, until the end, when she realized a light was still on at the opposite end. “I had to crawl on my belly to get down to other end of case to unscrew the light bulb,” she recalls.

Minet came to some fascinating revelations about viewers’ experiences. “People walking by with their carts experience them one by one—but it’s more of a quick glance,” says Minet, “rather than the experience in a museum or gallery where they’re going to look at art. You have a wider audience but people don’t stop and ponder.”

The program, though, is not just for travelers. It’s also for the staff, and they responded to the work. “Those were the people who were blown away. When we were de-installing, someone came up and told us they were sad to see them go. The pieces had a different life for the people working there,” says Minet.

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