Daly Chihuly is a foremost artist and glass sculptor from Tacoma, Seattle. His works were recently (2021) displayed in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay for a limited time only. I was luck to have seen his work up close when I visited Seattle.
Dale Chihuly, Northwest artist, and most known for his work in glass, changed the landscape of this vital art form through pushing the boundaries of the medium. The eight galleries and three Drawing Walls offer a comprehensive collection of Dale Chihuly’s significant series of work. The artworks demonstrate how he pushed the boundaries of glass as an art medium in concept, execution and presentation.
After passing through an introductory hallway where you can read brief, informative paragraphs on the history of Dale Chihuly’s career, you will come to the Glass Forest, the only Gallery in the museum featuring glass pieces where artificial light (in this case, neon tubing) is incorporated into the glass. The Glass Forest installation is so beautiful, it took my breath away. I could not even imagine how much more amazing it would get.
In the Northwest Room you can see the glass baskets he created based on traditional woven baskets made by Native Americans. The Northwest Room also contains a small cross section of Chihuly’s extensive collection of gorgeous Navajo Blankets.
Of all the works in these galleries, the Sealife Room reflects Dale’s love of the sea. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest he always had a love of the water.
The Sealife figures do not appear often in Chihuly’s installations. They’re only sporadically found on Chandeliers and Towers.
Persian Ceiling, 2012
The Persian series started out with Chihuly’s interest in Persian glass and Roman glass, Egyptian glass. Martin Blank, a friend and fellow glass sculptor, came to Pilchuck, and his team was working creating miniature, small pieces that Chihuly elaborated on. They began to morph from Seaforms to characters that might live inside these shells — lots of weird Snooters and Tips and Pulls and Pokes.
Mille Fiori, 2012
The forms have been inspired by work that Chihuly did in Finland in Nuutajӓrvi, in Ireland at Waterford Crystal, in Monterey, Mexico. It’s a series made up of maybe fifteen or twenty different forms. There were these explosions of colors, primary colors, yellow, blue, red, and forms. These forms were clearly natural, they were organic but they were not imitations of natural life. They seemed to have a life of their own.
Ikebana and Float Boat
The Ikebana and Float boats in this installation were inspired by Dale’s experience in Nuutajӓrvi in Finland in the mid-1990s. While he was there he got it in his head to throw his large glass forms off a little bridge into the local river near the glass factory there.
Local teenagers would pick them up, put them into little rowboats, bring them back to shore, and Dale would take them out and chuck them in again. This went on for some time and he really liked the way his glass looked in these wooden boats. It evoked all kinds of imagery in peoples’ minds and delights them tremendously.
Drawings would be about the glass, sometimes they’d just be Drawings – a way to release the energy, a way for the artist’s mind and body to be creative while the glassblowing was going on.
One day where he was doing an exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, he decided the show needed another element, and an element that really would stress the ceiling.
So much of the walls and the floor spaces of the institution were transformed by the show that he did that he wanted to think about what he could do on the ceiling.
So he created a group of hanging works which we really realized were sort of wildly baroque chandeliers, and so the Chandelier series was born.
Macchia Forest (detail), 2012
It was the late 70s when Chihuly was introduced to German manufacturers of coloured glass that was primarily produced for the stained glass industry, he began to experiment to the 300 colours that he brought back. He put one colour on the inside, and then a translucent or an opaque white in the middle, and then another colour on the outside. This white was put on as big chunks of white, to give it more texture and variety, but they ended up looking spotty like clouds. So the series was called Macchia or Italian for “spotted”.
The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse. A 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space, the Glasshouse is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories.
The installation in the Glasshouse is an expansive 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. The perception of the artwork varies greatly with natural light and as the day fades into night.
Chihuly has shown his artwork in botanical gardens all over the world, but this was his first time working with a landscape designer to create a space unlike that of any garden or exhibition elsewhere.
The unique plant collection is specially chosen to complement Chihuly’s work and the striking colors and forms of the trees, plants, and flowers create a rich backdrop for the art. With an ever-changing, lush landscape, those who visit will enjoy a distinct experience with each new season.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is located at 305 Harrison St. (right next to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Monorail Station), Seattle, WA 98109. Definitely worth the visit.
Visited Oct 2019
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