Pioneering artist Dale Chihuly’s ‘Glass House’ shines in SeattlePioneering glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose work has been shown in more than 200 museums worldwide, is being honored in his home city of Seattle as “Chihuly Garden and Glass” opened last week, offering the most comprehensive collection of his work ever.
Spanning one and a half acres in the shadow of the Space Needle, the show includes an exhibition hall, a garden and a “Glass House” structure by Chihuly, inspired by his two favorite buildings, Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle and London’s Crystal Palace.
“It’s really the most important project I’ve ever done,” Chihuly told Reuters about the exhibition he designed.
Inside “Glass House,” visitors encounter a suspended sculpture 100-feet long, hovering overhead like an alien serpent. Composed of 1,340 individual plates of red, orange, amber and yellow, it is one of Chihuly’s largest installations.
“You look through it and you see the Space Needle behind it,” he smiled. “Sunset, sunrise — and it’s all in yellow, orange and red.”
In the garden just outside “Glass House” stands “Seattle Sun,” a yellow and orange orb of countless curls and baubles spanning 16 feet in diameter. An exhibition hall houses eight galleries outlining the various phases of Chihuly’s career, including his landmark work, “Glass Forest,” as well as a “Sea life” room that gives the artist pause to remember how it was created in his mind. “One piece I like a lot is the boat piece,” said Chihuly about a rowboat in the room that is filled with ornaments of various shapes and colors. The idea for the piece came to him on a trip to Finland when he stood on a bridge and dropped glass baubles into a river to see if they would break.
“There were some teenagers there with their rowboats and I asked them if they’d go down river and pick ‘em up,” he recalled. “When they came back with their boats full of glass, that’s when the idea came to me about exhibiting a boat full of glass. In fact, of the two boats in the exhibition, one of them is from Finland.”
Also in the hall is a gallery dedicated to chandeliers including sculptures derived from his landmark 1996 installation, “Chihuly Over Venice,” composed of 14 pieces suspended in piazzas and intersections throughout the city.
Michelle Bufano, the exhibition’s executive director, said “Chihuly over Venice” marks a turning point for Chihuly’s work when he turned more toward more architecture, more engineering and “finding ways to make his vision come true.” Venice is where Chihuly began his career, studying there on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1968. Within the ancient Italian city’s glass-blowing industry, he learned the Venetian tradition of teamwork. In the U.S., glass blowers more often worked alone.
Leading a team enabled Chihuly to think big, expanding the medium in both definition and scale. And when injured in the middle of his career, it gave him tools he needed to continue realizing his vision and creating masterful work even if he wasn’t blowing the glass himself. Reuters