Art is something I appreciate, but I never know what to say about it. Last year I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art with my dad, and I also saw the Art of the Brick (Lego) exhibit at the Franklin Institute Science Museum with Victoria and Georgina. Neither trips made it to the blog. For this one, I considered just editing a few pictures from the museum and sharing it on Instagram but leaving it off the blog because I didn’t have too much to say, but this is quite a collection of pictures.
So here it is, a quick “read” for your viewing pleasure. I’ve copied down (word for word) as many artist statements for each exhibit (eleven) as I managed to capture. It’ll be like walking through the museum yourself, but from the comfort of wherever you are reading this blog post. Though I’ve got to say, art is meant to be felt and experienced. Getting up close to Chihuly’s work in real life and truly grasping the immense scale and incredible detail of his work is something I cannot capture in a tiny little blog post.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Chihuly has been influenced by Native American culture. In his Cylinders series, Chihuly experimented with glass-thread drawings on glass vessels, inspired by Navajo textile designs. This method requires colorful threads to be carefully laid out in an intricate design before being fused onto the vessel in its molten state. The process was informed by the artist’s background in weaving.
Chihuly’s series, Baskets, marked a turning point in which he freed himself from the tradition of symmetry in glassblowing. This freedom from formal composition constraints remains a central aspect of Chihuly’s work, for which he is highly recognized. In a 1977 visit to the History Museum at the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma, his hometown, Chihuly was impressed by a collection of Northwest Coast Indian baskets. Struck by the slumped forms the baskets had taken over time, Chihuly sought to replicate the effects of weight, gravity and time in the wavering forms of his Baskets series.
The Northwest Room presents selections from the artist’s early experiments in the Baskets, Cylinders, and Soft Cylinders series along with a sampling of Chihuly’s personal collection of Northwest Coast Indian baskets, American Indian trade blankets and Edward S. Curtis photogravures.
The 15-foot Sealife Tower takes inspiration from the sea and Puget Sound. The Towers evolved from Chihuly’s desire to present sculptures in spaces where ceiling structures could not withstand the weight of his Chandeliers. The Tower and vessels in this room include forms such as starfish, octopus conch shells, sea anemones, urchins and manta rays. The Sealife Drawings and Sealife Vessels are other ways in which Chihuly explores his love of the sea.
This installation includes two of Chihuly’s wooden rowboats, one filled with Ikebana elements and another with Niijima Floats. Their origins date to 1995 in Nuutajärvi, Finland, where he experimented with temporary installations along the shore of the nearby river and tossed glass forms into it to see how the glass would interact with water and light. Local teenagers gathered the drifting glass in rowboats, inspiring Chihuly to create a new type of installation with a variety of forms including two seen here: Ikebana and Niijima Floats.
The Ikebana Boat features long, flower-like glass stems inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana. Niijima Floats were inspired by the artist’s trip to the Japanese island of Niijima and by childhood memories of discovering Japanese fishing net floats along the beaches of Puget Sound.
After losing sight in his left eye and dislocating his shoulder, Chihuly relinquished the gaffer position and began drawing as a way to communicate his vision and designs to his team. The drawings evolved beyond a communication tool to become an important part of his expression.
With his Burned Drawings, Chihuly explores color and texture in new ways. He draws on heavyweight watercolor paper with acrylics, dry metallic pigment, charcoal and graphite, and even burns the paper surface with an acetylene torch. These drawings are gestural and fully of energy with subtle colors and rich texture.
Chihuly’s first Drawing Wall was presented to the public in 1992 at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Chihuly has explained, “Drawing really helps me to think about things. I’m able to draw and work with a lot of color and that inspires me.”
Chihuly has always had an interest in architectural settings and how art interacts in spaces. In 1992, during his solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum, inspiration and circumstance merged. Challenged by one installation in a room that didn’t feel resolved, he created a new type of installation before the opening, and presented his first Chandelier.
Chihuly has continued the Chandelier series over the years, notably in the 1995-96 project, Chihuly Over Venice, where he pushed scale and placement. Thirteen Chandeliers were hung in outdoor sites throughout the city. The fourteenth installation, the Palazzo Ducale Tower was placed beneath a traditional eighteenth-century Venetian chandelier in one of Venice’s historic buildings, juxtaposing new and old. This room includes five installations from, or inspired by, Chihuly Over Venice.
Chihuly began the Macchia series in 1981 with the desire to use all 300 colors available to him in the hotshop, and named it such after asking his friend Italo Scanga the word for “spot” in Italian. Thinking about the colors and intensity of stained glass windows, Chihuly realized that the glass panes looked more clear and vibrant against a cloudy sky than a blue one. This idea inspired his experimentation to separate the interior and exterior colors by adding a white layer in between, a “cloud,” and as he mastered the technical complexities, pushed the scale up to four feet in diameter.
Each work is speckled with color, which comes from rolling the molten glass in small shards of colored glass during the blowing process. To complete the piece, he adds a lip wrap of a contrasting color.
tl;dr– A walk through the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. (A photo heavy blog post light in text.)