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Drawing From Life at LAX

September 22, 2002|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

Painter Shelley Cassidy spent two months on a mural featuring employees and customers at La Cantina bar and Cinnabon restaurant at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Cassidy did her best to render an authentically detailed Mexican cantina under the critical eyes of the "model" employees who doubled as unofficial consultants. The work has dramatically improved the ambience, says Clarence Daniels, president of Concessions Management Services Inc., which operates the bar and eatery. We asked the artist and models for their perspectives.

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Shelley Cassidy

41, Artist, Valley Village

What is the mural about?

The mural was initially about the warmth and culture of Mexico. It ended up being about the people who work at La Cantina and the stories that are their Mexico.

Why use employees as models for the painting?

It was the owner's idea. I usually research a project to death.

Who are your artistic inspirations?

When I look at the astonishing talent of Lucian Freud, the remarkable light of Edward Hopper or the startling characters of Alice Neel, I'm in awe.

What did you learn during this experience?

I learned how incredible the Mexican American people are. I have enormous respect for their culture. I also learned to adapt to chaotic working conditions and still do my job.

What's your next project?

A mural and paintings for a new chain of restaurants called Roman's. The paintings will feature people interacting and eating.

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Leonel Zaldivar

59, Maintenance Worker, Los Angeles

What's your verdict on the mural?

Shelley did a really good job.

Favorite detail?

The cantina. The color of the face of the man and the background.

Does your portrait look like you?

I think it's good. Remember me when I am famous in the movies.

What's your best feature?

Everything! I am a professional model! I have to be very nice looking.

What's your creative talent?

I like to draw. I draw faces, rivers, hills, everything.

What's best about working at the airport?

I like the exercise I get from walking to all the stores in the terminal.

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Maria Castillo

25, Cinnabon Manager, Los Angeles

What does the mural mean to you?

It looks like Tijuana to me.

Does your portrait look like you?

It looks a lot like me. Shelley took a long time

Would you change anything about your portrait?

I'd have her change my nose. It's too pointy.

What's your creative talent?

I love to cook.

What's best about working at the airport?

There's always something going on here and I'm always meeting new people.

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Alberto Sanchez

31, Food Attendant, Hawthorne

What does this mural mean to you?

It says people are happy in this place. They enjoy drinking or eating in the cantina.

Favorite detail?

I really like the little cantina. It's like the one in my hometown of Jiquilpan, Michoacan, Mexico.

Does your portrait look like you?

Yes. I like the hair, my eyes and my mustache. It's me.

What's your best feature?

My eyes. They can see a lot and they know when I'm happy and sad. They talk with me in the mirror.

What's your creative talent?

I sing some Ricky Martin sometimes.

What do you like most about your job?

I like the people. Sometimes they remember me and I remember them. I enjoy my job.

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