Pae White’s cluttered, hilltop studio in Pasadena feels like the calm after a storm. About the size of a two-car garage, it is filled with muted California sunshine and animated by the sound of White’s dog barking at gardeners working on the beautifully landscaped property, next to the wilds of Ernest E. Debs Park.
On a recent visit, White, who has an exotic, natural beauty with long, curly hair and prominent almond-shaped eyes, sat at an enormous table scattered with the evidence of a period of intense productivity. Discarded sheets of printed plastic and test strips from a digital weaver in Belgium, which she finds “compelling” because of their randomness, are heaped on the chairs and floor. Nearby is a stack of plastic boxes filled with a portion of her vast collection of Vera scarves. In the corner, a new industrial laser nudges a vintage card table. Paolo Soleri wind chimes hang overhead, and swatches of metallic paint are daubed on the windowpane behind her.
Though she makes self-deprecating jokes about the anxiety that often accompanies her creative endeavors — “I always say to myself, why do I get into this situation where I have no idea how to do this?” — it is also clear that she thrives on the risk associated with testing unproven fabrication techniques on the large-scale, high-visibility, site-specific projects that have dominated her agenda of the last few years.
Still, while she seems to thrive on the anxiety associated with using a high-profile commission to test unproven techniques, White fantasizes about returning to the kind of meditative process she employed when she used to make more of her work by hand.
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-- Susan Emerling
Photo: Pae White artist in her studio. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times