plastic elephant cynthia minetIt may look like a playful take on the proverbial “pink elephant,” but the installation above, on view through September at the Bradley Terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, harbors a deeper context. It’s part of a menagerie of life-sized pack animals from a series called “Unsustainable Creatures,” by sculptor Cynthia Minet, constructed of all kinds of recycled plastic materials, and lit with multicolored LEDs to remarkable effect.

But beyond the whimsical visual aspects (note the imaginative use of a vacuum-cleaner hose for the pachyderm’s trunk), there’s a serious point to be made. “It is more about how we use animals in the same way we use plastics. Throw them away when we are done with them,” the artist said in an interview last year. More recently, she told the LA Times that, “I wanted to draw a parallel between the burden of these pack animals and the burden we’re placing on the Earth.”

Minet’s underlying message is one of awareness and sustainability, but one can’t downplay the undeniable artistic quality of the pieces. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the ox, below, brings to mind the abstract bulls drawn by Pablo Picasso in the 1940s, now newly reinvented in an eco-sensitive 21st-Century environment.

Always nice when creativity and conscience — and a bit of art history — come together.

plastic ox cynthia minet

(Photos: top: Panic Studio / LA; bottom: Martin Cox)