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Jae Carmichael, 80; Artist, Filmmaker Brought Digital Age to 19th Century Altadena Cemetery

November 18, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Jae Carmichael, an eclectic artist, writer and independent filmmaker who updated a 19th century cemetery and served as founding director of Pasadena's Pacific Asia Museum, has died. She was 80.

Carmichael died Nov. 5 at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena after a long illness, said her cousin, Caitlin Mullin.

A painter, sculptor and photographer, Carmichael staged more than 200 solo exhibitions in galleries in Los Angeles, Japan and Europe. Her work is included in permanent collections of the Oakland Museum of California, the Long Beach Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Her 1976 film "Heritage of Hope," which she made for the Los Angeles Unified School District, was nominated for an Emmy.

Carmichael applied her interests in art, filmmaking and history to her own heritage. She was a descendant of the pioneering Giddings family, which founded Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena in 1882.

More than a century later, Carmichael created the Mountain View Memorial Gallery from the mausoleum in cooperation with the Pasadena Cemetery Assn. and made a film commissioned by the association, "Arbor of Light."

At the gallery, she curated such exhibits as Merwin Altfeld's "Viewpoint" in 1993, featuring mixed-media paintings of Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley landmarks.

More recently, Carmichael initiated the cemetery's installation of computer chips called Memory Medallions in a few dozen historic tombstones.

The system allows visitors with a laptop or hand-held computer to view five-minute silent films about such luminaries as Caltech physicist Richard Feynman, who won a Nobel Prize in 1965; and television's 1950s Superman, George Reeves.

Carmichael, who directed the Wooden Horse Gallery in Laguna Beach in the 1960s, became the founding director of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena in 1972.

Among her films for the institution were "The Japanese Tea Ceremony" in 1973, "Tribute to Sofia" in 1990 and "Paintings From the People's Republic of China" in 1991.

Her publications for the museum include "The Rug Culture" in 1973 and "Chinese Painting" in 1974.

Born in Los Angeles, Carmichael studied at Mills College, earned her bachelor's degree from USC, a master's in fine arts from what is now Claremont Graduate University and a doctorate in cinematography and art history at USC, where she taught classes in film and television for many years.

She also taught art classes at Southern California museums and galleries, and at Pasadena City College.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena.

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