The only American among 100 artists chosen for Copenhagen’s “Elephant Parade” art project does her part to save elephants in the wild.
As I sit at Figtree’s Café in Venice watching the ocean waves on a sunny morning, Sona Mirzaei strides into the café smiling and brimming with positive energy. This single, dark-haired beauty took Copenhagen by storm last February after she became the only American artist to participate in the exclusive international art project “Elephant Parade Copenhagen 2011.” The project is an open-air art exhibition of 100 fiberglass elephant statues painted by 100 artists from around the world and raises funds to save elephants in the wild.
Combining her love of wildlife and her passion for the arts, Mirzaei is committed to spread the word about the plight of Asian elephants. “I have always adored elephants and all kinds of animals,” Mirzaei says. “When I learned about what was happening I was absolutely horrified and decided, then and there, that I would find a significant way to make a difference.”
In the past century, Asian elephant populations have plummeted from over 250,000 to less than 35,000. The increase of human population coupled with the loss of rainforests has had a dramatic impact on the numbers of elephants in Asia ― not to mention that trains, mines and poachers kill more than 400 elephants a year. Thankfully, the elephant advocates have found an innovative way to encourage an impressive array of artists to contribute to public awareness and conservation.
For some time, Mirzaei had wanted to collaborate with Danish artist Per Hillo. It occurred to her they would be a perfect team for the project. Mirzaei led the way, completing an application for the Elephant Parade committee, one of thousands they received. She was thrilled when they chose her to be among the artists that would paint an elephant in front of thousands of onlookers at Copenhagen’s popular, high-end department store, Illum.
As she tells of her adventures, it’s obvious the experience touched her. “I had no idea, that there would be so many people,” Mirzaei says. “They were very interested and enthusiastic while we painted. It was really refreshing.”
Aware that Prince Henry of Denmark would also be creating his own elephant for the Elephant Parade, Mirzaei assumed the public would scarcely take notice of her own. “For two weeks, seven hours a day, I would go to work on our elephant at Illum and I never stopped being amazed at how many people seemed to truly care about what we were doing.”
When the subject turns to her elephant, Mirzaei is all smiles. “I wish I could keep it, but I think it would probably overwhelm my sitting room.” She laughs. “In any case, if last year’s auction is anything to go by, I’d probably be outbid.”
Mirzaei and her project partner Per Hillo decided to name their elephant Triumph of Unity. Mirzaei’s enthusiasm is touching as she explains their decision: “We feel that if all religions and all people regardless of background or belief were to unite for a worthwhile cause that humanity could indeed triumph over all of life’s many adversities. Let’s start to believe again in the power of love so we can protect not only Asian elephants, but all living things.”
It was Mirzaei’s idea to factor all religions and concepts into their design, and the crown was meant to serve as a way of uniting these ideas.
The Elephant Parade committee chose Mirzaei’s elephant to lead the Elephant Parade that will take place in Singapore during the winter of 2011/12. The auction itself will take place there on January 11, 2012 ― just in case you’d like to go there and bid ― or just to see Mirzaei’s Triumph of Unity elephant before it goes to its final home.
Meet Sona Mirzaei and see her art at an opening reception on Saturday, June 25, from 6-9 p.m. at Seyhoun Gallery (9007 Melrose Ave. between Doheny Blvd and Robertson Blvd.) in West Hollywood. The exhibition runs through July 8.