Chihuly in Boston

July 16, 2011

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After graduating in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade.

In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, he went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice. There he observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today. In 1971, Chihuly cofounded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art.  His work is included in more than 200 hundred museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including ten honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

That said, I have to say the hanging “chandeliers” are his most successful work in my mind.  Tonal variations found in those rather than the garish mix of colors seen above in “Mille Fleurs” work toward a more  sophisticated aesthetic in my mind.  I also didn’t care for the way many of the pieces were curated with baskets, blankets, and different wooden forms.  Again the “chandeliers” are simply glass and largely one color allowing the medium to be appreciated to its fullest.

In 1999, Chihuly mounted a challenging exhibition, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem; more than 1 million visitors attended the Tower of David Museum to view his installations. In 2001, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London curated the exhibition Chihuly at the V. Chihuly’s lifelong affinity for glasshouses has grown into a series of exhibitions within botanical settings. His Garden Cycle began in 2001 at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. Chihuly exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London, in 2005. Other major exhibition venues include the de Young Museum in San Francisco, in 2008, and most recently the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011. (Not to mention the Bellagio)  That is a lot of work for one guy you might say… well it appears that he now employs a team of artisans to create the works and is one hand to guide the look and execution of each piece.   

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