I hope you enjoyed the photo introduction yesterday introducing the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly. His glass works attract museum aficionados as well as those that might otherwise rarely visit a museum. His collections are in more than 200 museums as well as in private collections. The glass artist is now 71, and because of two unfortunate accidents, since 1979 now relies on 90 full time and 10 part time to do the hands on work and glass blowing under his direction at Chihuly Studio in Seattle. Of the more than 100 million people that have seen his work, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts added approximately 160,000 more to the tally, exceeding the initial estimates of 115,000. The Museum gift shop offered Studio Glass pieces that ranged in price from $4,600 to $8,600 as well as 72 Lithographs and most pieces were sold.
Most people do not know that Chihuly’s undergraduate degree is in Interior Design, and his masters in sculpture, and then another in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. He was also a Fulbright scholar. He also studied overseas in England and in Venice, where Murano glass influenced him greatly. His creations have been called over-the-top, theatrical, vibrantly colorful, imposing, stimulating, dramatic, and that only begins the list of adjectives that could be ascribed to his works of glass art. I used to go to the Corning Glass Museum when I was young at least once a year, and have always been fascinated by glassblowing. Now, one of Chihuly’s chandeliers hangs there, in the same museum where Stuben glass is exhibited. The same words of description might also be attached to an interior design, depending on the designer and the client.
So, let’s see some glass. We took several hundred photos. Photographers were encouraged to take photos, the only restriction being no flash allowed. There were eight installations, each in a separate room of the new (2010) contemporary McGlothlin wing, designed by Londoner Rick Mather. Before we went into the lower gallery, we took an elevator to view the only piece outside the gallery. Called the “Blue Ridge Chandelier” installed next to the Tiffany stained glass window. This looked like many of his chandeliers , a more or less solid colored mix of eccentric shapes of glass. From above, and close in, it took on an entirely different effect. Because of the way they sold tickets by time slots and a maximum number of people, you were sometimes one of just a few viewing the glass, and rarely were your views blocked. We went during the week, which was still pretty much sold out, but the way they handled it made for a wonderful experience. The guides were terrific if you had a question. Below is a visitors first view of the chandelier – imposing, appearing monochromatic until a close up inspection reveals it to be more colorful than expected with many shades of blue, cream, and hints of gold (like layering of color in a room), and surprising amounts of varying texture and shapes. At first glance it appears wild and untamed, but that yields to wows, and more wows when one realizes the complexity and beauty and forethought that had to go into this work. When the sun began to stream in through the window behind it, it sparkled in such an amazing way.
We entered the hallway, and then the first of nine installations revealed itself. I have to say, even when young children were present, the entire two hours we spent in the exhibition, there was a sense of reverence and quiet like entering a chapel. The wow’s were constant, but muffled as each room was revealed around a new corner. These nine installations represent about half the series Chihuly has created during his 50 year career. The first revealed a black glass floor that reflected the two rowboats heaped with glass orbs, spirals, and surrounded by huge balls of color and pattern such that some looked gelantinous and alive, others smooth and static, and all reflected by the surface in unexpected ways as you moved across the room. Mind you, these were real, full sized, not scaled, boats. This installation was called “The Venetians”.
That is it for today. I will continue tomorrow. Feel free to post comments. charisse