On Saturday afternoon, the hubby and I finally visited the spectacular Chihuly Collection, presented by the Morean Arts Center, in downtown St. Pete. It was an inspiring experience, and I'm thrilled to share it with you today. If you're an art lover, or just an admirer of pretty things, grab a cup of joe and settle in for some eye candy.
But first, a little about the man behind the work.
“One of the most important inspirations for me is the glass itself—the glassblowing process. This wondrous event of blowing human air down a blowpipe and out comes this form. Many things inspire me including architecture, nature, cars, great films, beautiful objects and books." -Chihuly, when asked where his ideas come from
Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned artist most widely recognized for his vibrant blown glass installations, though he draws and paints, too.
Born in Tacoma, and now living in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest-based artist was always interested in glass, and the way light passes through it, as a kid but it wasn’t until a weaving class at the University of Washington (where he was studying interior design) in the early 1960s that he first used it artistically—he wove small pieces of glass into tapestries, of all things. A few years later, inspired by a poster on his wall depicting a glassblower with its cheeks puffed up, Chihuly gave the medium that has made him famous a try. He melted some glass in an oven and blew a bubble. The rest, as the say, is history.
Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. There was a stint as a commercial fisherman in Alaska to raise money for grad school, earning two Master’s degrees (one in sculpture, one in fine arts), and a scholarship to work at a glass factory on the Venetian island of Murano, where he first observed the team approach to blowing glass.
That is the way Chihuly works now, following a serious car accident in England in 1976 left him blind in his left eye and lacking depth perception. (He is sometimes referred to as a pirate because of his wild hair and black eye patch.) After the accident, Chihuly stopped blowing the glass himself and started directing his team.
“Glass is very durable, but it’s also fragile and can break at any moment. I’ve always tried to push the medium as far as I could in terms of shape and scale. It is a challenge to see how big we can blow and stretch the material.” -Chihuly, on the challenges of working with his primary medium
Today, Chihuly's work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. I was first introduced to the colorful, wonderful world of Chihuly as a college student, when Pepperdine University’s small on-campus art house, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, exhibited—incredibly—some of the international artist’s pieces.
When I stayed at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas years ago I witnessed his work again, giddily pointing up at the massive ceiling installation and whisper-shouting at my then-boyfriend, “that’s Chihuly!” as we walked through the lobby. So when I found out there was a permanent Chihuly exhibition here in St. Petersburg, I knew I had to go.
Marked at the entrance by a 20-foot crimson sculpture (Rose Crystal Tower) created specifically for the St. Pete location, the Chihuly Collection is stunning inside, of course, and not just for the art. The 10,000-square-foot space was thoughtfully designed so that the art and architecture would work together, and that fact, coupled with the lighting, makes quite the showcase for the small-scale works and the large, complex, multi-component glass sculptures like Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier.
“Surround yourself with artists and see as much art as possible. Go with your gut and create something that nobody has ever seen before.” -Chihuly’s advice for aspiring artists
With my humble iPhone camera I did my best to capture Chihuly’s creations in all their color and beauty (you’ll see why the man says he’s never met a hue he didn’t like) but I highly recommend visiting an exhibition if you ever have the chance. It is truly incredible getting up-close-and-personal with these unique works, especially when you think about all the time, energy and vision it took to forge each one.
Now, let’s go on a journey through the Chihuly Collection (with the opening act of “Tidal,” a complementary mini exhibition of sea-inspired glass sculptures by Kait Rhoads)…
(Information and quotes from chihuly.com. Learn more about Chihuly and his work here.)