We had the good fortune of connecting with Cynthia Minet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cynthia, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in New Jersey, but moved to Rome. Italy when I was 20 months old. After spending my childhood in Rome, my family moved to London, and then when I was 13, we moved to Los Angeles. I really don’t think I would have become an artist if it weren’t for my early exposure to art. I saw the ancient Roman ruins and Baroque fountains every day; a major aqueduct was visible from the school bus on my way to school. My elementary school had to halt a planned expansion of the facilities because they discovered the ruins of an Ancient Roman villa under the ground of where they were going to pour the foundation. From that day on, we use to joke that orange peels found in the playground were Etruscan artifacts. My parents were friends with artists in Rome, in particular, Dmitri Hadzi. I think my visit to his studio when I was a child was one of the factors that inspired me to become a sculptor.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I make sculpture and drawings. I am most known for my illuminated sculptures of life-size animals, made from recycled plastic materials. I am most proud of my recent museum installations, where I have shown groupings of animals that are most often site-responsive. For example, I made a pack of five huskies pulling a sled for an exhibit at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, and I made a grouping of six Roseate Spoonbills for the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, Texas. For the Craft Contemporary Museum in Los Angeles, (2019), I made a mechanical sculpture of an extinct lioness combined with an oil-extracting pump jack mechanism, inspired by the museum’s site across from the La Brea Tar Pits. What sets my work apart is that I aim to create visually seductive sculptures that carry a conceptual sting. I seek to engage viewers by presenting works whose materials, such as repurposed discarded plastics, help to raise awareness about urgent environmental issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, and species extinction. Making my work is never easy; I try to challenge myself by making things that I haven’t made before. Since my focus has been on animals for the past decade, I study anatomy and animal behavior as I attempt to represent each new species. Armature building and designing how pieces will come apart for shipping and reassembly is always the most difficult part of my process. I build my work myself, and only use assistants when the volume of work and deadlines require it. I do seek collaboration when I can’t figure things out, like LED sequencing, or the mechanics of movement. What I have learned along the way is that I have to make artwork in order to feel balanced. If too much time goes by without my being engaged in a project, I become difficult to live with, both for my family and myself! What do I want the world to know about me? I believe in art’s capacity to transform lives. As an art professor at Moorpark College, I stand for diversity and inclusion, and against racism and intolerance. I believe that climate change is real, and that plastic pollution must be reversed, if we only take the right steps. I always tell the truth, and when I commit to something, I follow through, even if, as the procrastinator that I am, it may take me a while.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There is so much in Los Angeles, this is a tough one, especially since there is a pandemic right now, and it has curtailed all socializing! But, if there weren’t, I would take them to the Malibu Lagoon for a walk. I would take them to Hauser and Wirth to see their exhibit, and have a drink in the bar. We would go for a bike ride along the Los Angeles River, have avocado toast at the Spoke Cafe, and then a coffee by the river at La Colombe. Head out on the bike again to Hama Sushi in Little Tokyo, and if it is summertime, catch the concert at Grand Performances in the California Plaza. A hike the next day to the Griffith Observatory in the afternoon sun. Yup, that ought to do.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people to thank for their assistance, encouragement, mentorship and love, so it is a long list. First a shoutout to my first art teacher, artist Susan Weinberg, who taught me painting and sculpture from her studio under the Santa Monica Pier. Paolo Carosone, at the Tyler School of Art in Rome made me love sculpture above all other arts. Stephen De Staebler, who was a great mentor in grad school. In my early teaching years, a shoutout to another mentor, Patricia Crosby Hinds. My exhibition record really began when I moved to the Brewery Art Colony, and I have Scott Katano, to thank for that, as well as Mat Gleason for jurying me into my first group show in Los Angeles. Subsequently, the museum curators who have sponsored my work: Julie Decker, Ariadni Liokatis, Jennifer Cahn, Andi Campognone, and Holly Jerger. My artist friends, of course have been indispensable, in particular my artist support group of Jill D’Agnenica, Holly Tempo, and Barbara Hashimoto, as well as Margaret Adachi, and Jeanine Centuori. My recent collaborations with LED designer extraordinaire Vaughn Hannon, and artist Mike Roof, allowed me to make sculptures that have sequenced lighting and sound, and moving mechanical parts. Photographer Martin Cox has documented my work from the beginning. Throughout, I am grateful for the support and love of my husband Marco Rambaldo, and of my daughter Tania. Additionally, a shoutout to the folks at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles for continuing to house my work and shipping crates. Finally, Karla Funderbunk of Matter Studio Gallery for my most recent solo show, and Shana Nys Dambrot for a succinctly written LA Weekly Pick of the Week.
Linkedin: cynthia minet
Noel Korten Guido Frenzel Martin Cox Carlos Limas Blake Jacobson Chris Arend