The Artist Who Created Highland Park's Giant Red Dragonfly Invites Us Into Her Lair (Video)
Born and raised in Los Angeles, sculptor, designer and metal fabricator LT Mustardseed probably is best known for her giant metal dragonflies.
LT's work with metal started in 2000, when she was invited to join a crew building a giant fire-breathing dragon for Burning Man, and soon her dragonflies started to take flight.
She built one for Coachella, back in the early days, and a few others live as bike racks and public art in cities from California to France and beyond. Her helicopter-sized red dragonfly with disco ball eyes has become a landmark in Highland Park. "I meet people all the time who say, 'Oh my God, I've seen that forever,'" she says with a smile. "So that makes me feel good, that people know it and are excited to meet me."
Meeting LT at her workshop and studio means stepping into a quiet garden full of butterflies and flowers, motorcycle parts, animal skulls and cacti, plus various cats, birds and a dog who share her space. The quiet is broken when the artist fires up her plasma cutter to embellish the sides of old oil drums, branding botanical landscapes into their rusted surfaces. But LT's concentration and the casual grace in her recent work can be pretty peaceful, too.
"I wake up, do meditation on my double-decker porch, go for a hike whenever I want," she says. "I'm inspired by nature — it gives me a grounding and helps me to be creative."
LT's name comes from a old nickname, "Little Tiger," but also reflects the time she spent in the Navy before traveling through Asia and much of Europe. "I got pushed out of Silver Lake," she says about returning home, "and then I found this amazing pocket here." Surrounded by verdant hills and the owls, snakes and birds of the area, LT savors this era in Highland Park. "I've seen a lot of transition, but luckily it's still kind of slow," she says.
In her front yard you'll find a fire pit and car parts, metal workshop and sculptures in progress. Walk along the custom-made rock wall to the backyard, however, and there are flowers, oak trees, an outdoor tub and the double-decker porch she built with custom screens, fixtures and daybeds just begging for a nap, meditation or a quiet moment in the afternoon light.
"I traveled in Asia for a few years and came back and wanted that experience with the nature behind my house; to feel like I'm in Thailand or Bali and have my own offerings to the gods," she says. And that's the appeal of the old bones and taxidermy she collects, too — an offering. "The whole connection with the cycle of life and death, and not having a lot of attachment to it," is part of her practice, she says.
"I make art because I'm passionate about it, because I want to. It's all this heavy, dirty metal when I'm working on it, but the final outcome is delicate and beautiful," she says. "It's so fun! I mean, I love fire and metal and getting dirty, and being able to clean up after."
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Los Angeles.