The Grand Opening of the Animal Museum in the Arts District
By Genie Davis
Through February 17th
The Animal Museum held its grand opening Saturday night, and the shiny new space managed a twin feat: presenting compelling exhibitions on animal welfare and the environment, and offering some terrific art.
“Entangled” is a joint collaboration between the museum and World Animal Protection, dedicated to making the world’s oceans safer for animals. The exhibition concerns both marine wildlife conservation and pollution. Conceptual artist Ethan Turpin offers a three-screen 360-degree video work that literally plunges viewers into trash-filled oceans. The at-initial-glance mysterious images of floating plastic and garbage is mesmerizing. What could be sea creatures or plants wavering in the deep are almost ethereally-shot studies of a horrifying amount of trash that makes oceans a dangerous, threatened environment.
Photographer Rachel Ceretto contributes moving photography to the exhibition. SoCal native Ceretto has traveled to exotic locales to depict sea-life and support the mission of World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign. Los Angeles based sculptor Cynthia Minet creates her own vivid, glowing animals from LED-illuminated plastic waste products. Her absolutely stunning life-size baby elephant is joined by a soaring falcon here. Using recycled plastic fragments, she has created stunning mixed media sculptures that also expose the ubiquitous waste caused by human dependence on plastic and petrochemicals. Her elephant is beautiful and moving, shaped from bottles, tubes, and containers, with wires running like veins through its transparent plastic “skin” to connect the LED lights. Its trunk is shaped from a plastic conduit that resembles vacuum cleaner tubing. Both a spiritual and environmental declaration, her work viscerally hits home when it comes to animal welfare and plastic waste. It’s not just manmade trash that’s adrift, it’s our planet’s survival. Her falcon, captured and frozen in flight, suspended from the ceiling, is equally beautiful and fraught; and likewise created from discarded otherwise toxic waste material. Minet is compellingly reimagining these waste products as elements of sculptural beauty and transformation.
Designed to raise awareness of the devastation created by marine debris and innovative ways to recycle lost or discarded “ghost” fishing gear, the entire exhibition posits hope: that non-profits and innovators with a heart can challenge our culture’s dependence on harmful waste and byproducts.
Across the museum, “Fashion Tails” is a presentation of celebrity-studded photography. A collaboration between the celebrities and animal rescue facilities and curator Eva Danielle, the purpose of these beautiful photography set-pieces is to pay tribute to the plight of pet animals that need homes, and promote the idea of adoption versus euthanasia. From Jason Alexander to Sharon Osburne, from cats to dogs to horses to birds, Danielle has positioned her celebrities and their pets in whimsical, dreamy settings that evoke an ice kingdom, a garden of flowers, a medieval landscape. More simply, there are also charming portraits such as that of subject Ashlynn Yennie cradling a white cat against her chiffon designer dress, or Rhona Mitra astride and embracing her horse.
Also on display in the museum space: an historic S.P.C.A. horse ambulance and a bloodied chicken sculpture “McCruelty: I’m hatin’ it.”
The opening night event had Nami Kim as guest of honor, the woman known as a “Mother Teresa” working diligently to curtail the inhumane South Korean dog meat industry.
The opening exhibitions are emblematic of the museum itself, a fascinating hybrid of art and social dedication to a healthy connection with the animal world and animal welfare.
Meanwhile, an opening night fundraising party blossomed under heat lamps in the street outside the museum. The event included some awesome vegan appetizers from Doomie’s, Hugo’s, and Big Mama’s and Pappa’s pizza, gifts of Lush vegan soaps and bath bombs, recycled paper notebooks from Vegan Printer, Tofurkey sausage samples, and holiday-themed craft cocktails provided by a Santa Barbara mixologist the Green Grinch was a personal favorite. Sponsors included A Healthy Pour, Ambroso Tequila, Brit-Tanya Bartending, Hugo’s Restaurant, Essentia Water, Stacy’s Cookie Lounge, Doomie’s Home Cookin’, Mulberry Love, Open Table, Runway Vineyards, and White Tiger Vodka.
The Animal Museum is located at 421 Colyton Street in DTLA’s arts district.