There’s something particularly special about arriving at the Ritz-Carlton Naples.
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By Irvina Lew
Editor’s note: Some writers can evoke the feeling of “being there.” Others can instill the desire to visit “there.” Irvina Lew is capable of doing both. So, her visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass now turns into our visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass, present, and hopefully, in the future. Today, Irvina will introduce us to Dale Chihuly’s talents and we in turn will be able to enjoy Irvina’s talents in the process. JM
Looking upwards beyond the striking golds, oranges and reds of the 1340-piece,100-ft-long, glass sculpture suspended from the soaring Glasshouse and seeing the iconic circular tophouse of the Space Needle, even the most blasé tourist is smitten: WOW!
I am at the 45,000 square foot Chihuly Garden and Glass, the largest exhibit in the world devoted to award-winning glass artist Dale Chihuly. The exhibit opened at the Seattle Center in May, 2012 and is scheduled to remain there for 30 years. The Glasshouse, itself, is a dramatic structure–with its 40 foot glass roof reminiscent of the Galleria in Milan—and it sits adjacent to the exhibit amidst a color-co-ordinated, glass sculpture garden with green glass trees and a parade of blue glass spikes reaching towards the sky.
A spirit of magic abounds, here, even among those of us familiar with viewing Chihuly’s oeuvres on loan, on exhibit or in permanent collections in some 200 museums, as well as in hotels and in huge installations around the world including one over the canals of Venice. Already familiar with his bowls and flowers on art gallery shelves, I can still recall the thrill of walking under the flower ceiling his team created and installed in the lobby at the Bellagio, in Las Vegas. That 2000-piece, 70 foot by 30 foot Fiori di Como installation took a team of 100 artists two years to complete.
Beyond the sheer numbers, the over-the-top display in Seattle has thousands of components and took the team nine months to construct. It surprised and delighted me with its impressive scope, it’s colors, forms, light and fanciful spirit. Though I was intrigued enough by past views of Chihuly works to have flown from New York to Seattle just to see it, I didn’t expect such an emotionally compelling impact.
As a glass artist, Chihuly–a Tacoma, Washington native born in 1941–was introduced to molten glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. Whatever alchemy attracted him, he enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin, in 1965, After receiving a Fulbright Fellowship in1968, he worked at the Venini glass factory in Venice. In 1969, he established the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he studied and taught for more than a decade and cofounded the Pilchuck Glass School, in Washington. The school has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art and trained many of his talented disciples.
Even though he is the recipient of eleven honorary degrees, Chihuly—because he is the master of a collaborative team–is sometimes regarded as much a businessman as master artist though even skeptics give him credit for creating the strong market for glass art and for training a talented coterie of glass artists.
In this long-term Seattle exhibit, his work is displayed amidst a variety of his personal collections. A lifelong collector, Chihuly notes that he started amassing his objets in the 70s, while on the east coast. “I started collecting about the time I started teaching at RISD,” (Rhode Island School of Design where he established a program for glass art in 1969 and where he taught throughout the 70s before returning home to the Seattle area in 1983). “I love to find beauty in everyday objects,” he says. “Building and adding to these collections over the years has been a personal passion.”
In one room, a floor-to-ceiling collection of Native American Northwest Coast Indian baskets line a side wall, neatly folded American Indian Trade Blankets are displayed on the back wall and, the centerpiece of the room showcases free-form Chihuly bowls which are influenced by the surrounding objects. Light changes both the mood and the colors of the floral-themed Persian Sunset Wall while his mom’s many hued garden inspired the multi-colored, Mille Fleur installation.
For me, some of the highlights include the ceiling of “The Pergola Hallway” which contains between 700 and 900 vibrantly colorful glass components and the mesmerizing room which displays his phenomenal “Persian Ceiling” series where the free form glass pieces are all in a wide range of vibrant colors, some from clear azure to aqua to green. Water has always played an inspirational part in Chihuly’s work because, as he says, “The molten glass can’t help but remind you of the water.”
Among the life-long collector’s collections on view, many are in the Collection Café where the display embraces vintage accordions hanging from the ceiling and an array of ordinary objets. There are carnival chalk ware, mugs, vintage radios and cameras and each is grouped together; some are displayed under glass on specially constructed tables. In the rear, there’s a backlit Drawing Wall with 36 of Chihuly’s drawings.
The Collection Café is a casual, farm-to-table restaurant and open to the public without having to pay the exhibit’s admission charge. Chefs Jeff Maxfield and Ivan Szilak incorporate fine, local Northwest ingredients while creating menus that reflect a global influence.
Entrance to the exhibit costs $19 and while well worth it–the cost is reason enough to spend ample time to view the film introduction to the artists’ techniques and philosophy, leisurely explore the exhibit and enjoy a lunch or dinner at the Café. For more information visit: www.chihulygardenandglass.com
Sip and sup
Spa and stay.
See, shop and sail.
That’s the short list of my favored activities.
While the destinations vary widely, the features that I contribute to a variety of publications usually focus on one or more of those actions.