Culture Travel Tuesday
By Dr. Jessie Voigts
Destination: Art Exhibits
Artist: Dale Chihuly
You have probably seen glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work – now ubiquitous, it is seen at art museums and public places around the globe (click on these links to plan travel to museums and public places where you can see his work). He’s truly an American cultural icon – responsible for sparking an entire movement of teams creating art, based on the bold shapes and colors formed in glass. He took the solo artist Studio Glass movement and expanded it with the use of glassblowing teams. These teams are composed of artists from all around the world, using their combined vision to explore the boundaries of glassblowing in form, color, and creation.
Chihuly has degrees in interior design and sculpture, but it was a on a Fulbright scholarship to study in Venice where he learned how teams can blow glass, which was important to his development as an artist and business person. Chihuly started the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington, and has also taught at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design).
Whenever I visit a Chihuly exhibit, or see one of his permanent installations, I could sit and stare for hours. The light on the glass, hitting the infused colors and sliding around the amoeba-like shapes intrigues me, draws me in to its’ magical aura. And I’m not alone.
His works are in over 200 museum collections, around the world. Add this to the countless museum exhibits, and millions of travelers have been entranced by his work. Whenever a Chihuly exhibit comes to a location, thousands flock to be inspired by his colorful, twisting organic art (myself included!). Wandering Educators recently had articles about exhibits in Tacoma, Washington and Dallas, Texas.
His work has been inspired by Indian baskets, Indian blankets, and more, but also has created many beloved pieces by accident. For instance, the Indian baskets with a ribbed mold, blown out, formed the basis for his Sea Life creations – a happy accident that has resulted in incomparable beauty.
Chihuly notes “My first serious use of glass consisted of my weaving small pieces of glass into tapestries. This was during my junior and senior years at the University of Washington (1963–65). After studying weaving and textiles, I wound up falling in love with both Navajo blankets and Pendleton trade blankets… A turning point came in 1974. That year, I built a glass shop for the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, visited the first major exhibition of Navajo blankets (at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), and, along with Jamie Carpenter and Italo Scanga, developed a drawing pickup technique that led to the creation of my Navajo Blanket Cylinders (in late 1974). We created drawings inspired by Indian blanket designs, using glass threads that we then picked up onto the surface of the hot cylinders.”
I remember seeing my first Chihuly glass installation at Meijer Gardens, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was amazed at the vibrant colors, swoopy, twisted forms, and the feeling that the glass was about to come alive. Since then, I’ve seen as much of his work as I can, for to see the work and follow the trajectory of this living legend, this cultural icon, is to embrace the best of American glass art. Have you seen a Chihuly exhibit in your travels? What did you think?
Here are more images of Dale Chihuly’s work and an interview. (PLease pardon the commercials).