Monday, April 04, 2016

In which Soozcat visits Chihuly Garden & Glass

For reasons we needn't get into here, I became excessively discouraged over the weekend. I felt utterly convinced that I was the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, that I had a job to do but no authority to get it done, that no one was paying attention or gave a flying crap, etc., etc. Further, there wasn't much I could do about any of it.

I have learned, however, that one of the best ways to get out of a blue funk is to shake up your routine a bit. What I needed was to get out of the house and do something I'd never done before.

That something turned out to be Chihuly Garden & Glass at Seattle Center. I know, it's been open for a while now, but I'd never gotten around to visiting. So I got into the Little Silver Hyundai and boogied on over there.

Here's what I found.

This way to the entrance, people! Step lively.

And here's the rather unassuming entrance. You enter, buy your ticket, get it scanned by the Guardian of the Glass (no, that's not really her title, but if I had that particular job YOU BET I'D CALL MYSELF THAT) and enter the exhibit.

Here's the first thing you see: an early Dale Chihuly installation piece from the 1970s. (Not his best work, IMO.) Already you can see he's itching to do something different with glass shapes; he's just not sure what yet. These are some of the few Chihuly glass pieces lit from within, using neon and argon. Most of the rest, even his famous chandeliers, are lit by spotlights from above and/or below.

The next room is sort of odd. It does have more of Chihuly's early work (this one is based on a Native American weaving design)...

...but it also inexplicably has items from his personal collection of Native American blankets and photographs. It's attractive enough, but doesn't match the rest of the collection.

Some of this work shows a development of his later interest in asymmetrical, organic shapes.

I liked this one just because it reminded me of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken dishes.

In the next room there are several small pieces surrounding a large one, all with ocean themes. This small piece features eels...

...this one has octopodes...

...and this one has sea turtles.

And here's the mighty sea pillar in the middle of the room (it's too big to hang from the ceiling, so it isn't a chandelier).

It's studded with golden glass representations of sea life.

A detail of the sea life contained herein.

Moving on to the next room, we find nothing on the walls or floor, but a whole lot of patrons looking up.

And here's what they're looking at -- vaguely organic-looking forms lit from above, resting on a glass ceiling.

Wait, is that a Christmas ornament?

Moving on. The next long room features a large installation piece called Mille Fiori.

Dale Chihuly says this one was inspired by his mother's garden when he was a boy. I think you can see the resemblance.

Another pillar -- Chihuly seems really keen on these, as variations show up everywhere.

Rough paintings outlining the shapes of glasswork projects to be finished. This is the only art Dale Chihuly makes by himself these days, after a car accident left him with a dislocated shoulder and a missing eye. He has a style described variously as "gestural" and "broad." Also "Jackson Pollocky."

ETA: I don't mean to be insensitive, but don't you think it's a bit of a lost opportunity for Dale Chihuly to wear an eyepatch? He could be sporting some of the most amazing glass eyes in creation!

You know the expression, "Whatever floats your boat?" Well, here are some floats in a boat.

Right beside it is a boat filled with shapes inspired by Japanese ikebana. I think it looks more like a Mardi Gras parade float. The boat is also heavily listing to starboard, as though it would pitch out all its contents. This is what happens when ikebana drinks and drives.

(Despite my snarky comments, I actually quite liked these two pieces!)

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Electric Carrot Chandelier!

You guessed it, the next room is fulla chandeliers. Here's a blue one.

A lovely green one, reminiscent of seaweed with its air bladder structures.

And a red one, which looks a bit like a cross between glass grapes and Cthulhu. Yeah, I'm being a goof.

Behold a Chihuly Special Pillar in the midst of the room!

Here, in the final inside gallery, is a whole slew of anemone-like shapes covered in subtle speckled patterns.

Aw, you know me. I likes me some green.

Now at this point, you may be saying, "What, is that all?" Nope.

As you think you're leaving the exhibit, you actually walk out into this glass house, the atrium of which seems to be filled with a spiraling cloud of poppies.

Looking up, you can see how close we are to the Space Needle.

Art can be deceptive. These glass pieces look very light and delicate, as though they're being blown through the space...

...but if you look a little closer you can see the metal and wires and other durable structural supports needed to keep this heavy piece from crashing to the floor.

Let's head outside, shall we?

Unsurprisingly, the outer garden is where Chihuly's work really shines. The organic glass forms blend seamlessly into the garden.

 This very tall piece looks like it would be right at home in the Arizona desert.

And this thing either escaped from a sugar swizzle stick or was mined from the Big Rock Candy Mountain. (Actually, this is one of the few Chihuly pieces that mimics a natural, but not organic, form.)

The garden crew have done a fantastic job of matching the garden plantings with the glass.

Purple poles. At this point there were some older ladies walking along behind me, and every time I stopped to take a picture, they stopped too. I started feeling a little nervous... ah, garden-variety paranoia.

Don't these objects put you in mind of cobras? Maybe it's just me.

Detail. They remind me of the spread hoods of a cobra poised to strike. Back off, ladies!

Photos can't do this gilded ball justice. The gold made it seem to glow from within.

You guessed it, another pillar. This one reminded me of the amaranth plants that grew like weeds in the field across from our house in California.

Amaranth detail, with Pacific Northwest sunny glory.

The fern structures in this planting blended in so successfully that I don't think I noticed they were glass until after I got home and uploaded this picture.

Hail and well met, mighty yellow squiggle tree!

And now for some blue poles. (Again, note the plantings; I'm impressed!)

The world's a big blue marble when you see it from out there...

Finally, a few random purple frondy things next to the glass house.

Not shown here: the old silver trailer that had been turned into a mobile glassblowing studio, and the sizable crowd that gathered around it to watch a glassblower do his thing.

As you prepare to (what else) exit through the gift shop, this corridor of outside chandeliers meets the eye. Loverly.

One of the things I realized by going to see this exhibit is that what you see displayed here is "Dale Chihuly's art" in the same sense that a movie is "a Steven Spielberg film." Yes, both men have artistic concepts in their heads, both direct others with the aim of realizing that concept, but in both cases a whole lot of other people's work goes into the finished product. The chandeliers and other large, modular pieces are assembled by a team of glassblowers. Each modular piece is produced by a team working together. It is not one man's work represented here -- it's more the Dale Chihuly School of Glass.

In any case, this day provided some much-needed relief and happy-making art. If you're thinking about going, ticket costs are spendy, but you can come early and wander in the exhibits and garden all day if you feel inclined. I think it's worth seeing at least once -- especially if you can finagle yourself a discount.

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