DALE CHIHULY'S Hand Blown Glass Sculptures Harmonize With Nature
Dale Chihuly has spent the past 40 years of his life blurring boundaries. He is best known for revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement, putting into play the collaboration between team members and a division of labor to complete the creative process, thus developing complex multipart sculptures of dramatic beauty and impressive magnitude, designed as table-tops or to dominate interior or exterior spaces . From the time he co-founded the legendary Pilchuk School in Washington in 1971, his studios have become a mecca for artists, collectors and museum professionals. His exhibitions and installations around the world continue to provoke controversy as part of the art/craft debate.
Chihuly had long studied the architecture of glass houses, and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the nation's prominent glasshouse, is the perfect setting for the major pieces in this exhibition. In his first major show in New York City, Chihuly has transformed the New York Botanical Garden into a dramatic and poignant collaboration between art and nature.
It is both entertaining and enlightening to wander from garden to garden, through the rain forest and into the courtyards of the conservatory, where brilliant and subtle colored glass shapes take on the form and movement of spikes of garden grass, herons about to take flight, and a single booming flower. I discover Blue Herons, Niijima Floats, onion-shaped Walla Wallas. A blue row boat overflowing with indigo and lavender glass shapes languishes in a courtyard pool: a yellow row boat filled with amber and orange glass sits in another pool; hundreds of live goldfish flit among living water lilies and striped orange, yellow and red glass oversized bulbs of garlic. So artfully placed, so true to life, it is difficult to tell art from nature. I find myself on an exciting treasure hunt, thrilled to discover yet another partially hidden Chihuly that appears to be a bird restless to fly or a single glass flower sprouting next to a lush flowering plant. The mastery of the art, the beauty of the forms and the cleverly conceived installations are to be revered.
I learn the rain forest is made up of layers, each having its own climate, light-level and wildlife. I am especially captivated by Chihuly's Neon Tower, a 20-foot tall spire in two shades of green, in which he uses more than a half a mile of neon tubing. The tubing, imported from Italy, was specially engineered in Brooklyn, shaped, designed, built and disassembled in Seattle, then shipped cross country, reassembled and installed.
Chihuly and his team have creatively, yet painstakingly, integrated art into living plant environments not only in and around the conservatory, but also in the Rose Garden, the Everett Children's Adventure Garden, and in the fountain by the Leon Levy Visitor's Center where a massive Sun Sculpture rises from blackened waters.
Take a tram tour or a leisurely stroll... learn about the 250-acre historical landmark New York Botanical Garden's fascinating history and its wide array of scientific horticultural exhibits and continuing education programs, but do not miss Chihuly's first major exhibition in New York City. Dale Chihuly has created, with unbridled imagination, a family of glass shapes that have found a home in the big apple, until October 29, 2006.
CHIHULY NIGHTS: Thursdays 5pm to 9pm include live music at the Conservatory through the end of the show. For directions, tickets and more information: 718-817-8700 or www.nybg.org.
Rose Crystal Tower
Photo: Raymond Koch
Photo: Terry Rishel