Nature has always been one of artists’ main inspirations and focal points. It seems like everything from natural phenomena like eclipses to urbanistic ones like frost-covered cars have been covered by the artistic community.

However, fairly recently, a new genre of nature-themed art has started to rise, which tackles the increasing threat of climate change and ecological problems.

Liz Sexton, a Minneapolis-based artist, creates intricate papier-mâché sculptures, puppets, and objects inspired by the natural world. Bored Panda got in touch with Sexton, who elaborated on her collection of stunning papier-mâché masks of wild animals, made with the aim of highlighting the displacement that these species are currently facing.

Having grown up in a family of artists, Liz Sexton has been doing papier-mâché art for much of her life

Image credits: Liz Sexton

“I make papier-mâché sculptures inspired by the natural world. Most everything I create is meant to be interacted with, whether masks, puppets, or simply objects—they’re all intended to be worn, held, or touched,” explained Sexton.

Sexton started focusing on animal masks a few years ago. After a few Halloween costumes, she realized how much people actually connect with her work: “With the wearer concealed under a larger-than-life mask, it becomes as much a human with an animal head as an animal with a human body—a very interesting thing to interact with,” said Sexton.

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

“I often work on threatened species, particularly sea creatures, and photograph the masks worn in very human habits, highlighting the displacement that many creatures are currently experiencing,” elaborated the artist. “I also work on more common animals that we might share our surroundings with but don’t necessarily notice or engage with. Presented on a human scale, they share our world, becoming visible members of our communities.“

Recently, she started focusing on animal masks, namely threatened species and common animals

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Papier-mâché, coming from French and literally meaning mashed paper, refers to the composite material used in the art. It consists of pulpy paper pieces sometimes reinforced with textile and bound with glue, starch, or wallpaper paste. It’s an art form that has been around since 200 B.C., and is also used as an economical building material for various ceremonial activities.

Having grown up in a family of artists with messy creations being encouraged from a young age, papier-mâché has always been a huge part of Sexton’s life: “Papier-mâché is an extremely versatile, accessible, and low-impact medium. All one needs is paper, paste, and time to let it all dry.”

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Her work on threatened species aims to highlight the issue of displacement that’s affecting many creatures

Image credits: Liz Sexton

She continued: “As an adult, I moved a lot and didn’t always have access to a studio, and it is very much something that can be done anywhere, in whatever space you can find. While I’ve worked in other mediums, at some point I decided to focus mainly on papier-mâché to fully explore what I could do with it.”

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

As with many forms of art, papier-mâché also comes with its challenges, Sexton explains: “Working with papier-mâché is really time-intensive. Each piece is built with many layers of paper and paste that need to dry between each step, and if you’re sculpting with paper pulp, you can only build a certain thickness at a time to ensure things dry properly.”

“Additionally, once the base form is built, making significant changes can be tricky and time consuming, so at some point you have to commit and hope for the best. At least, that’s how I usually feel at some point during the process,” elaborated Liz Sexton.

The artist chose papier-mâché as it’s an extremely versatile, accessible, and low-impact medium

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Lastly, we asked Liz about her favorite project or one that she’s most proud of. She had this to say: “I make pieces of all sizes, but the wearable masks are my favorite to work on. They take a long time to create and each animal can present new challenges, but at the end of the process, there is a creature staring back at me. When worn, it’s quite transformative.”

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Despite it being time-consuming, Liz assures that when worn, it’s transformative and thus worth the patience

Image credits: Liz Sexton

You can check out more from Liz Sexton and follow her on Instagram, where she posts her work, both in-progress and the final results.

Do you do papier-mâché? If so, what are some of your latest or best projects? Let us know in the comments below!

Here are some miniature papier-mache puppets that Sexton has also made over the years

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton

Image credits: Liz Sexton