Chihuly – The Fine Art of Glassblowing

The Chihuly glass installation finally opened at the Dallas Arboretum – fourteen outdoor sculptures, in total, are spread throughout the gardens. This is one of four public places in Dallas, that I am aware of, with his work on view. All are worth a visit to get a grasp of what this one man has done to revolutionize glass making.

Dale Chihuly (b. 1941) is considered the best glass artist in the world.

Here’s a bit more about the artist:

Dale Chihuly at 2010 TED Conference
(photo: Jurvetson | flickr)

Under a 1968 Fulbright scholarship, Chihuly studied glass making at the Venini glass factory in Venice. This stint in Italy forever changed the way he approached glass making – no longer as a solo glass blower/ gaffer, but as part of a team of 3 – 20 skilled craftspeople and apprentices. He brought this practice to the United Sates when he started a glass program at his alma mater RISD (Rhodes Island School of Design) and opened Pilchuck Glass School, fifty miles north of Seattle, Washington, the state where he was born.

In Dallas, here are four places to visit:

  • Dallas Arboretum (May 5  – November 5)
  • Dallas Museum of Art, on permanent display in the Cafe
  • Seay Biomedical at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, on permanent display in the Lobby Atrium
  • Talley Dunn Gallery. “Dale Chihuly – Recent Works and New Forms” (May 12 –August 18)

Here are photos I took at the Dallas Arboretum last week:

“Float Boat” overlooking White Rock Lake
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

“Mexican Hat and Horn Tower”
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Glass forms echo the white water lilies
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Here are selected images from Talley Dunn Gallery.  It’s an interesting show because you’ll see examples from a wide range of his series (different bodies of work).

The “Persian” series piece below shows how Chihuly became known for pushing the boundaries and limits of glass. How thin could he make the medium go? Very thin. Why be constrained by the old conventions of symmetrical forms? He wasn’t. And, let gravity do its thing allowing molten edges to flop and crimp.

“Persian” series | Talley Dunn Gallery | Dallas, TX
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

The “Chandelier” series started modestly in the early 1990’s, yet a few years later the scale and size expanded. Now, a ton of glass orbs is involved, as well as Medusa-like shapes suggestively twisted into flowers, ribbons, snakes and other organics (see below).

Detail from Ivory Feather and Amber “Chandelier” series | 84” x 73” x 73” | Talley Dunn Gallery | Dallas, TX
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Visit the Seay Biomedical Building on the campus of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSWMC). This Chihuly piece – made of 1,100 pieces of brilliant orange blown glass (see below) – rises from a pool of water and extends 1-1/2 stories high. (Note: Behind the scenes, doctors and scientists in the Seay building are working to discover the cure for cancer.)

Chihuly at Seay Biomedical Building at UTSWMC (1999)

Eat at the DMA Café and experience more Chihuly. This time you’ll be near his “Persian” series (see below) and experience another room-sized, architectural installation.

“Persian” series titled “Hart Window” (1995) | Dallas Museum of Art

On a final and upbeat note, I first discovered Chihuly when the DMA hosted an exhibition of his work. I was mesmerized as I walked into the entrance – a long tunnel with a ceiling made of plexiglass and filled with an abundance of oceanic creatures. The glass shapes in the ”Seaforms” series were Chihuly’s memories from beach combing at Puget Sound for shells, jelly fish and mollusks.

“Ceilings” at Olympic Arts Festival (2002)
We were on our feet, yet we still felt transported to an underwater colony and coral reef at the DMA installation.

Be back with a new post on June 3rd.

Enjoy your week.

Kick off Your Shoes and Hang Ten – Surfing at the Nasher

The exhibition Ernesto Neto Cuddle on the Tightrope will be at the Nasher from May 12 through September 9, 2012.

Friday night, the Nasher Sculpture Center threw a lively, salsa-tempoed party for leading Brazilian sculptor, Ernesto Neto (b. 1964), who – it turns out – is a brilliant and charismatic person.

Ernesto Neto (b. 1964). Born and lives in Rio de Janerio with his family.
(photo: Independent Curators International | Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York)

He possesses so much charisma and infectious rhythm that he might actually be the Pied Piper in disguise. Despite pouring rain, the Center’s guests, Director Jeremy Strick and Curator Jed Morse joined Ernesto as he danced to the beat of live Latin American music in the outdoor garden.  The drenched crowd rightfully celebrated with the Nasher staff, the artist and his assistants who had spent many-hours and late nights, over a week, to assemble this large and intricate piece of art.

The work titled, Kink (see below), fills the upstairs middle gallery. To experience it, as I did Friday night, is to continue celebrating Ernesto’s embracing approach to life.

“Kink” (2012) by Artist Ernesto Neto
Aluminum, crochet, polypropylene balls, wood, felt, and rubber | 14’ 3” x 66’ 8” x 13’ 8” | Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
(photo: Julius Pickenpack)

For me, the walk was like being on the inside of a colorful, textured abstract painting or in my own body entering my mouth and slinking through my larynx or proceeding into a cathedral’s sanctuary.

Entrance to “Kink”…It’s best to concentrate on the crocheted-bound path of rubber balls and best to have both hands free for balance.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

The next day, Ernesto gave a talk, as part of the Nasher 360 Speaker Series about his journey as an artist. (Note: These talks are well worth attending.) Here are a few things I learned about him:

  • Why name the piece Kink? For more than one reason: It’s an alliteration (one of his favorite word tricks) with the first and last letters “K” bracketing the “IN” which, in Ernesto’s mind, is an image of two eyes flanking a mouth. It’s a term metal shops use for twisting or bending a length of thin wire, yet could be applied to how the colored ropes in this piece were manipulated through crochet. (Note: His grandmother and great aunt taught him how to crochet when he was a young boy.) Finally, he slipped in that “It’s fine to Be Kinky,” a bit unique.
  • Life is better and more joyfully lived through our senses – heightened through touch, movement (remember Friday’s dance in the downpour of rain?), mingling together, sound and smell. In one of his earlier installations, he used the scent of the herb oregano to connote masculinity and floral scent to evoke femininity.
  • Ernesto believes “slow is good.”  One must walk slowly to be open to sensory experiences and to fleeting (potentially profound) ideas. He leaves us an adagio pace with Kink at the Nasher. When I entered his suspended tunnel, I had to focus carefully on each step, heighten my awareness of the intricately crocheted walls (gripping them to stay upright), and move at half-pace, all the while thoroughly enjoying myself and noticing others doing so as well as we navigated the tunnel together.
  • He selected pieces from the Nasher collection that sang to him. (Note: He is a good singer and can tap a catchy tune on his microphone.) He began with a small sculpture by Matisse, Madeleine I (1901), and ended with Brancusi’s The Kiss (see below). Ernesto paused for a while and then told us, “All my work is about that (piece, The Kiss).”

The Kiss (1907 – 1908) | Artist: Constantin Brancusi | limestone | 11” x 10-1/4” x 8-1/2” (photo: Nasher website)

A bonus: Ducks sweeten the festive spirit Ernesto has brought to the Nasher. Don’t miss the Mother duck and her ducklings scampering through the gardens and water pool. (photo: Betty Viguet)



until Sunday, May 20th.

A View from my Studio – Spring Visitors

Every spring I relish this view from my studio as I work on paintings and projects..

The backyard feels lush and green as plants sprout, after a winter hibernation, in well-tended beds. And, I eagerly await the arrival of Mama and Papa owls and the birth of their babies.

Follow the red arrow.
Peek into the hole.
See the vague outline of a recently hatched owl.

This owl, like all owls and most birds, was born with an “egg tooth.” You can see the top part of this tooth in the photo below. This structure helps them chip away from within and break through the tough eggshell. The egg tooth drops off a week or 2 after the hatching.

He (or she) is cautiously watching me as I take the photo. I think there is only one this year.
Last year I saw two little heads bobbing. Their young neck muscles were so weak that their heads looked like car dashboard figurines (“Bobble Heads”) with a spring for a neck.

Below is the ever vigilante Mama Owl. This year, I’ll call her “Betty,” after my own Mother. Betty has just spotted a safe time to fly from her house in search of food for her baby. Late afternoons seem to be part of her daily feeding foray and schedule.

Mama Owl, “Betty,” readies herself for flight. Wooden owl homes are available at Wild Birds Unlimited stores. They’re easy to install.

Mama Betty is well-concealed, just outside my studio, in one of the backyard trees.

In a few weeks the baby owl will fly away.

My garden will grow fuller. I’ll continue my current commission and other art work with the hope that next Spring another pair of owls, ready to mate, notices the welcome mat figuratively placed outside my studio in a nearby tree.

The odds are good. I’ve learned that owls are not known for being skillful and diligent nest builders. They prefer to simply take over the nest that some other bird or animal – in my case squirrels – has made. Once a good nest is found, owls use it year after year.

Welcome back spring happenings.

…until Sunday, May 13th.