Samantha Fields in "Dangerous Beauties" Opening May 5, 2013

May 5 - July 31, 2013  Sturt Haaga Gallery, Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge comeandsee_tear-copy

"Dangerous Beauties," an exhibition of artwork and living plants exploring the theme of the danger of confusing "beauty" with "goodness," opens with an artists reception at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso Gardens. The public is invited. The show continues through July 31.

Nature doesn't attach value judgments to its workings, but people do. Trees, flowers, foliage, entire landscapes are judged by people to be beautiful. The same holds true with works of art.

The goal of "Dangerous Beauties" is to present works of nature and works of art that are, in formal terms and on the surface, quite beautiful. But there is a twist: Behind their surface beauty, these plants and artwork reveal a darker side.

The exhibition will include artwork by: Daniel Beltrá, Fatemeh Burnes, Merion Estes, Samantha Fields, Mark Licari, Michael Light, Eve Luckring and Constance Mallinson. Artworks include paintings, photographs, prints and fabric collage.

The artworks will address views of the world seen from afar and from above, as well as close-up. Often resembling an abstract modern art masterpiece, the viewer may think they are just looking at an arresting pattern. But after learning what is depicted, these artworks reveal a second and more perilous or even haunting aspect of their beauty. The subjects are diverse, including oil spills, wildfires and other scenes of devastation.

The plant component of the exhibit addresses the poisonous, the invasive, the nettlesome, the offensive, the intoxicating, the painful and the outright carnivorous. This will be achieved using living terrariums and container gardens placed throughout the galleries. Among other plants included are Austrocylindropuntia (Eve's needle), Euphorbia (crown of thorns), Sansevieria (African spear), Kalanchoe (Pencil milk bush), Ilex (Holly), Zamia, Floridana, Dracaena, Codieaum (Croton) and Pachypodium.

"Dangerous Beauties" reminds us that successful stewardship of the natural world requires our attention to details and a thoughtful reading of what is occurring around us. Beauty is only dangerous if we dwell on the surface of things, without fathoming its depths.

The Sturt Haaga Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011. Admission is $8 general, $6 seniors/students with I.D., $3 children 5 to 12; children 4 and younger free. Information: (818) 949-4200 or

About Descanso Gardens: Established as a public garden in 1953, Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge 91011. The Gardens are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Descanso Gardens is accredited by the American Association of Museums.