Chihuly has become famous in many parts of the world for his chandeliers and large glass towers constructed of hundreds of twisting, hand blown glass forms. Some of the smaller chandeliers, which can fit inside a room, are on display at the Seattle exhibition.
I’ll add a video link at the end that will demonstrate how these chandeliers, made up of hundreds of individually hand blown pieces, are put together.
Many of the chandeliers start life as an idea that Chihuly paints onto paper.
Some, like these two, were part of the design for a large series of installations that Chihuly and his team made to hang over the canals of Venice in 1996. It’s said it was a wonderful spectacle as the light changed during the day. And, of course, light bounced off the waters of the canals adding to the show. It would have been amazing to be in Venice at that time.
The team have made many large installations to hang in cities across the world.
One of his largest pieces was a 42 ft high sculpture called “Lime Green Icicle Tower” which was part of a 2011 show at ‘Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts’. Incredibly, that sculpture (pictured) was made of 2,342 individual pieces of glass. It proved to be so popular with the people that, through a crowd funding scheme, the city of Boston bought the sculpture and it’s still there today!
(Photo from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts ‘ web site. I’ve given a link to a video of this exhibition in Boston…called ‘Through the Looking Glass.)
Many of Chihuly’s paintings have become collectors items in themselves.
I love the freedom of his drawings… and yet there is definite design.
I can only imagine how a glass sculpture made using this design would look like…
glowing with light instead of dense with thick paint.
Perhaps my favourite Chihuly creations in the exhibition were a set of large bowls set on black mirror pedestals. I’d never seen these before. How does he make them?
Chihuly had observed that the colours of stain glass windows are more vivid and glow more brilliantly on a cloudy day rather than on a bright sunny day. This was his inspiration for creating these ‘bowls’… he calls them ‘flower’ shapes. Each one has an inner layer of white opaque glass between two coloured layers… his ‘cloud’ effect. He then chooses some of the three hundred colours of glass available to him to produce a spotty, splotchy effect which he calls ‘Macchia’, Italian for ‘spot’ . But how?
To achieve this stunning effect, molten glass of the inner colour is first rolled in small shards of white glass and re heated. That gives two layers. The third layer of coloured glass shards are added in the next reheating, rolling, blowing, bending, folding process before the ‘lip wraps’ are added in a different colour. The light through these pieces is magical.
These pieces are a superb example of Chihuly’s constant experimentation, innovation and ingenuity. I’ll add a comment I read in an article on Chihuly in the US ‘Academy of Achievement’ (link added below… with more information about his life and art works)).
“The history of glass sculpture is unimaginable without the work of Dale Chihuly. When he began his career, Studio Glass was a little known movement within the academic art world. When he first exhibited his work, some critics questioned whether his work was fine art at all, relegating it to the less prestigious domain of handicraft. Today, no one can deny the international impact of his work, and his stature as the world’s most influential artist in glass.” I couldn’t agree more. His work is definitely art and always developing.
Of course at every museum and exhibition, you cannot exit without going through the shop! And so it was here. I was very tempted to buy these bowls from the ‘Persian Series’. Just too bad that the price was so prohibitive! A photo had to suffice. And I have all of our photos to look back on and relive a very special experience.
As you might imagine, I’ve been a fan of Chihuly’s work for many years. My love for glass work goes back to when I first landed on Europe’s shores in 1968; I became a devotee of stain glass in churches and other buildings in every city and village I explored. Back then, before the hordes of tourists took over the European cities, I could take my time and learn. In Murano’s glass works in Venice I was able to spend time on my own… no tour group… just absorbing the way the glass was formed. In later years, when living in Melbourne, I spent some time learning the basics of glass craft from one of Australia’s best. So to be able to spend time, quietly, unhurried, in an exhibition like this was a dream come true. Now, I hope I’ve been able to share some of that experience through the photos.
Next time we’ll wander in Chihuly’s delightful glass and flower garden.
“Academy of Achievement” Chihuly Biography link:
Chihuly: ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (Boston Exhibition) You tube link:
Jennie and David
All photographs copyright © JT and DY of jtdytravels
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