As mentioned in the last post, Seattle is full of cultural, educational and visual experiences. Several of the things to do and see are up at the The Seattle Center, and one of the best exhibits is the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. You think it is going to be a throw-away walkthrough of some examples of glass-blowing, but it doesn’t take you long to become enthralled and enraptured with the stunning vibrance of the glass that lays before you, and the search to understand the thought processes that went into these creations.
“One can only wonder what kind of genius thought of blowing human breath down a metal tube, forming a bubble inside a molten blob of glass. And to think that this molten blob of glass is made only of silica or sand, the most common material in the world, that can be transformed from a solid to a liquid to a solid just from fire. For me it’s the most mysterious and magical of all the inventions or materials that mankind has invented or discovered. Since I was a little boy I always loved glass. And 34 years ago I put a pipe into some stained glass that melted in my basement, and blew a bubble. Since that moment I have spent my life as an explorer searching for new ways to use glass and glassblowing to make forms and colors and installations that no one has ever created before—that’s what I love to do.” —Dale Chihuly, 2000
The ceiling at the entrance to the exhibit. A foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma Washington in 1941 and first became involved with glass-blowing while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After graduation in 1965, he enrolled in the first glass program in the country at the University of Wisconsin and then went on to found a similar program at the Rhode Island School of Design. While there he earned a fellowship to the Venini glass factory in Venice where he learned the art of team glass-blowing, a method that would stay with him for the rest of his career.
“I don’t know why I did it. I’d never seen it done. I didn’t know anybody who knew how to blow glass. After trying to research the subject, I very systematically made a pipe and melted a piece of stained glass between five bricks that constituted a ceramics kiln. I put some of the melted glass on the end of the pipe, blew air into it, and the glass bubble sort of accidentally blew up. It probably shouldn’t have. It didn’t break either.”
Glass blowing for years, centuries, had been a solo venture, the result of one’s artistic impulses but somewhat limiting in dimension. Chihuly broke with this tradition and started working with partners…
“We are less concerned with being narrative or figurative, but we are involved in the glass and the light that passes through it—the phenomenon of light being transmitted through colored glass. The designs are to bring out the light and the quality of the glass—if the piece gets too complex or narrative, you begin to compete with this.”
Some of the series of works Chihuly did…
“I put one color on the inside, then sort of a translucent or opaque white in the middle, and then another color on the outside. I loved the…ones that seemed to make the least amount of sense, like the really crazy ones—purple and chartreuse.”
…Chihuly has explored new and old techniques, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. He draws inspiration from the world around him, creating statements using color and form to capture the imagination, and catapult beyond conventional ideas of function and beauty.
“Halfway into the blowing process, right after the last gather of glass has been dipped from the furnace, the gaffer comes down on the drawing with the molten glass and fuses it to the surface. This is the most exciting moment of making a Soft Cylinder.”
“Can a work be too colorful? I don’t know if something can be too colorful. Color is one of the greatest properties of glass and is more intense in glass than any other material.”
Sweeping, spontaneous color
Chihuly’s Light Drawings are pieces created with grand, sweeping gestures and spontaneous movement. Chihuly applies layer upon layer of color, creating artwork that takes on a whole new life once lit.
“Glass is the most magical of all materials.
It transmits light in a special way.”
“Glass itself, of course, is so much like water. If you let it go on its own, it almost ends up looking like something that came from the sea.”
“Glass House” structure by Chihuly, inspired by his two favorite buildings, Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle and London’s Crystal Palace. “It’s really the most important project I’ve ever done,” Chihuly told Reuters about the exhibition he designed.
“I never met a color I didn’t like.”
“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced.”
There are all kinds of foods that folks from Seattle, and Washington State in general, call native. Rainier cherries, Top Pot Doughnuts (Dunkin ain’t even close), Piroshkies from Piroshky Piroshky, Craft Beer and Coffee, Beecher’s Homemade Cheese, Apples, to name but a few. But it is salmon that gives Seattleites and Washingtonians a feeling of homesickness when away from their favorite environ. So, let’s cook up a little untraditional West Coast salmon… From the Flying Fish restaurant in Seattle, chef Christine Keff makes a delicious but simple Pancetta Salmon Kebabs with Parsley Vinaigrette. Enjoy!