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Descanso’s Sturt Haaga Gallery invites visitors to look ‘Beyond the Bouquet’

Descanso’s Sturt Haaga Gallery invites visitors to look ‘Beyond the Bouquet’
Cristeen Martinez, manager of the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso Gardens, stands in front of a chalkboard paint mural by L.A. artist Eric Junker, on which participants can write and draw during the "Beyond the Bouquet" exhibition, from Jan. 22 to April 22. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

A dozen red roses, a spring bouquet, handpicked wildflowers in a jar — for centuries floral arrangements have been used to transcend the ordinary, convey affection or brighten someone’s day. Then they wither and die and, purpose fulfilled, are summarily discarded.

A new exhibition at Descanso Gardens’ Sturt Haaga Gallery, “Beyond the Bouquet,” encourages visitors to contemplate how flowers, and their eventual decay, might broaden our understanding of beauty, nature and our own humanity.

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Opening to the public Monday and running through April 22, the exhibit features works and installations from artists who use floral and plant arrangements to express wider themes, according to Gallery Manager Cristeen Martinez.

“It’s all going beyond what you’d originally think of as a bouquet in your living room,” Martinez said during a recent tour.

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An opening artists’ reception takes place Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., with free admission to Descanso after 2:30 p.m.

San Diego-area artist Britton Neubacher is one of several artists who designed an installation expressly for the space. “Shadow and Light” offers a lenticular display of light and dark flowers, plants and cacti, whose fractal patterns evoke sacred geometry.

"May 9, 2016" by artist Helen Rae shows how a glossy Vogue-like model can be reimagined with the addition of some colorful blooms.
"May 9, 2016" by artist Helen Rae shows how a glossy Vogue-like model can be reimagined with the addition of some colorful blooms. (Courtesy of the Sturt Haaga Gallery)

“Sky Portal,” lets visitors step inside a ring of flora and gaze at their own reflections.

“The reflection is so we can see ourselves reflected in nature,” said Neubacher. “The installation is kind of about healing our relationship with nature and, ultimately, our relationship with ourselves.”

Atwater Village artist Karen Kimmel created four abstract, inlaid drawings accompanied by meditation rugs in her “Reluctant Bloom” series.

A daily meditator and student of the ancient Chinese I Ching text, Kimmel says each hooked rug depicts a section of the corresponding work above, reminiscent of how daily meditation imparts wisdom on subjects of reflection one fragment at a time.

“A bloom, naturally, in the I Ching and in my life personally is such a great place to go for guidance,” she said. “[Nature] is an endless source of inspiration for me.”

Other pieces showcase decay, representing the impermanence of all things. Photographs of London artist Rebecca Louise Law’s work explore the peculiar beauty of dried flowers, while another recreated still life of flowers, plants and eggs provides a visual timeline of deterioration.

“I hope people see beauty in its different forms and are not just expecting to see a perfect rose,” Martinez said.

FYI: Sturt Haaga Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is included with Descanso Gardens admission: $9 adults; $6 seniors and students with ID; $4 children 5 to 12.

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