CODA Gallery

The Light Sculptor

CODA Gallery

CODA Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert hosts an exhibition of contemporary pieces by Southern California artist C.Dutch, who traps light in Lucite boxes and bends it using optical mediums. See his work on display Feb. 18 – March 2, 2022.

Story by Emily Chavous
Photography courtesy of C.Dutch

Blame it on an early interest in da Vinci — Southern California artist Carl Dutch, who goes by C.Dutch professionally, has long been obsessed with the appearance and movement of light. Using methods learned through experimentation and exploration, not unlike his polymath muse, the Golden State native captures natural light in 3D Lucite boxes and bends it using materials like dichroic films, acrylics, and resin. The resulting works of art, meant for hanging on a wall, exist in the multimedia realm between painting and sculpture. Dutch’s creations appear to be backlit, but they aren’t. That’s just part of the illusion.

“In high school, I was a da Vinci addict,” Dutch says. “I carried all his notebooks with me. I was image-hungry at the time, and I liked his experiments with optics. I was very fascinated. … I swear that the da Vinci influence is still in my soul.”

Despite entering college as a pre-med major, Dutch explored photography and ultimately followed his heart, ditching the science of medicine for the science of art. And that’s exactly what this creative foray is to Dutch — science. In his work today, he uses methodical technique to shape his materials, provoking brilliant refractions of light; he continually seeks out new technologies (or invents them) to toy with optics in new ways.

A C.Dutch original
A rare look at a cross-section inside a C.Dutch original, showing the optical materials responsible for some of the shifting light and color.

After switching majors and graduating from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Dutch built a substantial photography career, receiving numerous accolades for his work — projects you’d recognize, like the original Apple iPod campaign featuring silhouettes of dancers shot against colorful backdrops. He also developed and holds more than a dozen patents on lighting devices for professional photographers and consumers.

Over the last five years, influenced by the California Light and Space movement, Finish Fetish aesthetics, and op art, Dutch has turned his attention to light sculpting, using optical tools and props that were already in his photography studio. “It’s a 3- to 4-inch-thick box,” he says, describing the pieces in his latest collection. “As you walk around it, it completely changes and gets activated with the environment that it’s in due to the type and quality of light that may be in the space. It’s almost always different.”

See the sleight of hand for yourself in the upcoming C.Dutch exhibition, Light Alchemy, Feb. 18–March 2 at CODA Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert. For a chance to meet Dutch and discuss his work, don’t miss the artist reception, Feb. 18 from 4 to 7 p.m. To learn more about CODA Gallery and view their schedule of rotating contemporary art exhibitions, visit

Artist - C.Dutch
Each piece in the CODA exhibition ranges from approximately 2- to 4-feet in length. Next, Dutch says: “I definitely want do larger pieces and explore qualities of light with larger objects.”