The Dark Spring

Spring often signifies growth and new life, but Kate Parsons sees natural cycles of death and rebirth instead.
The design media arts alumna received a grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance in February, which helped fund her latest exhibition, “The Dark Spring,” in which she features video art, a virtual reality experience and a floral installation. Parsons’ exhibition will debut Saturday at Coaxial Arts Foundation in Downtown Los Angeles and will take on the themes of death, mortality and rebirth revolving around the spring season, Parsons said.
“It’s funny … being slightly obsessed with the idea of how people deal with mortality, or death, dying and mourning. It is a little dark, but it actually makes sense for the work,” Parsons said. “I’m playing with leaning into the extreme seasonal change.”
“The Dark Spring” begins with a room-scale virtual reality piece displayed through an HTC VIVE headset and accompanied by a song titled “Wake.” Parsons also includes a hanging floral installation above the piece, one of the largest features of the exhibition. Parsons said she hopes its grandiose nature will draw in viewers and compel them to investigate the rest of the artwork.
Christina McGeehan, who goes by the stage name RYAT and collaborated with Parsons on a previous project, recorded the song “Wake” on an omnichord, an electronic instrument that mimics a harp. She wrote “Wake” by improvising a melody on her omnichord and using her improvisation to create a drum beat. RYAT then detuned the omnichord and added vocals, completing the project in a day. The song delivers an ascending and calming tone to listeners, similar to the natural simplicity of Parsons’ art, RYAT said.
“(Parsons) is very comfortable with the fact that death is just as much a natural part of life as being born,” RYAT said. “I think people often refer to death and darkness as a scary thing, but it’s just another beautiful transition.”
The exhibition also includes a video composition that will run during the show, titled “3.20.18, 9:15 AM PST.” One day when Parsons was driving to work she remembered the upcoming vernal equinox, which marks the start of spring, and decided to reach out to her friends and colleagues for a video of plant life exactly during the equinox at 9:15 a.m. March 20. Around 40 people sent her videos of plants including succulents, roses and stinging nettles.
Parsons said the plant snapshots across Los Angeles represent how seasonal change manifests itself. Spring is the time during which plant life usually begins to re-emerge, and the equinox represents the cusp of that transformation, she said. The video art captures the time of tension and helps elaborate the story of the natural life cycle.
“The change in the seasons and the change in our typical world that we sometimes overlook are things that have been marked by humans for all of time,” Parsons said. “I like finding visual ways to express that and remember that there’s natural cycles to our lives that we should be paying attention to.”
One of the owners of Coaxial Arts Foundation, Eva Aguila, said Parsons realizes the ambiguous reality of life and emphasizes that in her work. As a result, she brings a more somber tone to her artwork, Aguila said.
“I kind of get where (Parsons) is coming from and I think it’s because in every cycle of life, there’s always an ending and a beginning,” she said.
“After Fischli and Weiss,“ the third segment of Parsons’ exhibition, includes a live video that follows flower bouquets as they wilt and die. For the video, Parsons placed endoscopic cameras, which are portable and pliable, inside of the bouquets to record the lives of the flowers over the course of the show.
Parsons said she also incorporated mortality into the floral gallery by having the live cameras capture flowers she collected from the Santa Ana Cemetery. Parsons visited the cemetery after reading about the discarded flowers that had once decorated its graves. She went to the cemetery after it had been raining one morning and found a myriad of flowers as well as a dumpster filled with greenery and material items thrown aside. The toys and stuffed animals left behind also had a special aura of mourning and sorrow which were especially emotional, Parsons said.
Within the three installations of the exhibition, Parsons uses complex artistic technology while hoping to maintain her organic themes of death and rebirth in “The Dark Spring.” She ultimately hopes to explore death positivity – the idea of being open about death and acknowledging it as a natural part of life – within her installation and bring back some of the lost regard for natural life cycles.
“I feel very strongly about the idea of paying attention to our ideas of mortality and expressing a lot of that,” Parsons said. “I like finding visual ways to dive deep into those themes and find ways to express what that actually means.”
by Anushka Jain
Coaxial Arts Foundation, 1815 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90016


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