Chihuly Garden & Glass

Detail of the centerpiece of the Sealife Room

for the last several years (starting with Los Angeles/Santa Monica) we’ve gone to oddball museums — places I’d never think to visit if traveling on my own. we’ve gone to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Argo Gold Mine, House on the Rock; this year we happened upon the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum on our way to the Space Needle. it wasn’t what we had in mind and wasn’t as weird or oddball as the last few museums of our weekends, but it was a fantastic surprise! 

I’ve seen small Chihuly installations in many places (the V&A in London, the Kohl Center in Madison, the Bellagio in Las Vegas) but this was a chance to see a huge array of his works — different styles, different colors, different methods of installation, indoors and outdoors, spanning the length of his career which stretches back to the 1970s.
Mille Fiori

it’s not shocking to have found a Chihuly exhibition in the Seattle area — he grew up in Tacoma, attended the university in Seattle and has had more permanent and temporary installations in the area than anywhere else in the world. after his undergraduate work in interior design at UW in Seattle, he moved on to the other (dare I say superior?) UW in Madison for graduate work in sculpture, and finally to the Rhode Island School of Design. (he earned money to pay for grad school by working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska). though he seems rooted in the Pacific Northwest at heart, he’s traveled all over the United States and world working on projects — from London to Paris to Venice to Finland to Ireland to Jerusalem and beyond.

Detail of the bottom of one of the chandeliers

in 1965, a Fulbright Fellowship took him to study glasswork in Venice at a studio known for a group technique which he brought back to Washington in 1971 when he established a studio with support of others. he continued to travel back between Washington, Rhode Island (where he was working at RISD) and Europe, touring all manner of art studios and glassblowing projects. while in England in 1976, a car accident cost him his left eye and damaged his right foot, but he persisted in expanding his artistic output. a surfing accident three years later, in which he dislocated his shoulder, forced him to give up the “gaffer” position in his glassblowing team but he continued to draw and provide conceptual artwork for projects. in 1986 he became the fourth American artist to have a one-person exhibition at the Louvre.

Persian ceiling as seen from beneath

some of the pieces I find most interesting are the outdoor installations — chandeliers over Venice, one at the Olympic Park in Salt Lake City, and a number in botanical gardens all over the country (Missouri, New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville Pittsburgh). Chihuly Garden & Glass is the latest exhibition (it opened in May of this year and is billed as “long-term” and exquisite care was put into lighting the pieces for maximum effect. from beneath, from above, reflecting in the black glass bases… it includes an array of pieces from across decades of glass art series — a glass forest, the Northwest room (illustrating early influences from tapestry and baskets of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest), a sealife room, Persian ceiling (seen above), Mille Fiori (also above), Ikebana and Boat Float, Macchia bowls… the general consensus as we wandered through the gardens below the Space Needle, already awed by what we’d seen inside the museum, was that it was the best place in the city to have any kind of photographs taken — especially on a day as gorgeous as the one on which we visited.

Looking up through the Glasshouse at the Space Needle

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.

One thought on “Chihuly Garden & Glass”

  1. Chihuly has a big house-boat in the Seattle area. The couple that Dad & I had dinner with (folks he knows through work) had actually had dinner on the Chihuly house-boat.

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