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Descanso artist-in-residence Carole Kim shines a light on garden’s ethereal beauty

Carole Kim’s “Shine a Light” exhibit at Descanso Gardens
Carole Kim, Descanso Gardens’ first artist-in-residence, stands in a multimedia tribute and memorial to the California live oak called “Ode: Quiercus Agrifolioa” in her exhibition,"Shine a Light,” at Descanso’s Sturt Haaga Gallery Monday, July 15, 2019. The show and the residency run through Oct. 27.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

For Pasadena’s Carole Kim there is practically no object that cannot be used as an artistic medium.

For two decades the interdisciplinary artist has superimposed moving light projections and translucent planes of fabric, plastic and paper upon living outdoor spaces to create otherworldly commentaries on nature and humanity.

Her desire to use La Cañada’s Descanso Gardens as a backdrop and subject for her multilayered creations is already bearing fruit — as the first artist-in-residence, Kim worked for nearly a year to create installations specific to the botanical garden.

From now through Oct. 27, the culmination of that work will be on display at the garden’s Sturt Haaga Gallery in a new solo exhibition, “Shine a Light,” which features an eclectic array of digital metal prints, window treatments and an immersive multimedia installation.

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“It’s all about where analog meets digital,” Kim said of her work during a tour of the gallery space. “You can create something where people don’t know what they’re looking at — I think that place of unfamiliarity is a good place to be.”

The exhibit will be punctuated by a series of ticketed live multimedia performances inside the garden, the first of which, “Seed Will Search,” takes place July 26 at 8:30, 9:15 and 10 p.m.

Kim’s Descanso-inspired works feature the projected bodies of live dancers moving and swaying over the gnarled bark of centuries-old heritage oaks. Song, dance and readings are often incorporated into live performances.

Other pieces in “Shine a Light” demonstrate how the superimposition of lines, patterns and text onto flowers, leaves and landscapes both change the subject and reveal its inherent beauty.

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“It’s about creating a very dimensional, illusionistic space,” Kim said. “Some people call my art 3-D without the glasses.”

Establishing an artist-in-residency program at the gardens was one more way of linking the gallery space with the surrounding gardens, according to Descanso Gardens Executive Director Juliann Rooke.

“By allowing an artist to use Descanso as a creative space and inspiration, all the visitors may see it through an artist’s perspective,” Rooke said in an email. “This is so apparent in Carole’s exhibition, which reflects her many hours spent here. Once you see ‘Shine a Light’ you may reenter the garden and experience it in a different way.”

Sturt Haaga Gallery manager Cris Martinez said the pieces highlight Descanso in a new and intriguing way that’s already resonating with viewers.

“The goal of having an exhibition [here] has always been to have a deeper connection with the garden,” Martinez said. “If someone were to attend the events, maybe they’d see the depth of the experience is more than just a walk through the Camellia Garden.”

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