The Spirit of Color by Viviana Puello
The beautiful glass sculptures of American artist Dale Chihuly are inspired by the natural world, balancing content with a research of the material’s translucency and transparency properties. Chihuly’s works use organic forms, plant life, sea creatures, beautiful currents of water, and waves to create universes of mysterious imagery, alive with movement and light.
Chihuly’s monumental three-dimensional installations, which use bright colors to stimulate viewers, are elegant and purposeful; Each piece plays an important role and integrates into the whole, effortlessly blending into the beautiful landscapes in which they are set. Chihuly’s captivating installations invite you into a secret world of fantasy and wonder that inspires the senses and connects with human consciousness and spirituality.
Dale Chihuly is known widely for his dedication to glass blowing. He has been credited with elevating blown glass objects from decorative pieces to fine art and has earned a host of awards, including 12 honorary doctorates and 2 National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. Chihuly’s glass sculptures explore color, line, and assemblage; his work ranges from the single vessel to indoor/outdoor site-specific installations. He is best known for his multipart blown compositions.
Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1941 and grew up in the city. While at high school, he wrote a term paper on Van Gogh and how the artist’s work inspired him to remodel his mother’s recreational room. After a year at the College of Puget Sound, he transferred to the University of Washington, where he was first introduced to glass during his interior design studies. In 1965 he achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in interior design.
After graduating, Chihuly decided to enroll in a hot glass program, the first of its kind in the United States, established by Studio Glass movement founder Harvey K. Littletonin at the University of Wisconsin, where he attained a Master of Science in sculpture in 1967. Chihuly further advanced his studies through the Rhode Island School of Design and later established its glass program, teaching students for more than a decade.
In 1968 Chihuly received a Fulbright Fellowship, which led him to the Venini Glass Factory in Venice. This experience exposed him to the team’s approach to glass blowing, which would become an integral part of his working method. In 1971 Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School, and he has gone on to become a leader in the development of glass as fine art.
Tragically, Chihuly was involved in a severe head-on car collision while visiting England in 1976. The impact threw him through the vehicle’s windshield, causing severe facial cuts and leaving him blind in his left eye. Miraculously, Chihuly was eventually able to recover and continued his glass-blowing career until he dislocated his right shoulder in 1979 in a body-surfing accident. In 2006, Chihuly gave an interview in which he stated that because his most recent accident had left him unable to hold the glass-blowing pipe, he was forced to hire a team of assistants. He said that he liked the view once he had taken a step back and was able to enjoy it. He explained how seeing things from this point of view enabled him to work from different perspectives and anticipate problems much more quickly. Chihuly described his role as a choreographer rather than a dancer, a supervisor more than a participant, a director rather than an actor.
Dale Chihuly has several museum collections, over 200 around the world in fact, with over a dozen well-known series of his work, including the conceptual breakthrough with Dry Ice, Bent Glass, and Neon that he completed with James Carpenter in the 1970s; Macchia, Persians, and Seaforms in the 1980s; Chandeliers, Niijima Floats, and Bridge of Glass in the 1990s; as well as Fiori, Bluebeards Castle, and Mille Fiori Venezia in the 2000s. In 1995, Chihuly began work on Chihuly over Venice, in which the artist created sculptures in glass factories in countries such as Ireland, Mexico, and Finland. He then began to install them throughout the piazzas and canal ways of Venice. In 1999 he started an ambitious exhibition — Chihuly In The Light Of Jerusalem. This project generated more than a million visitors worldwide to witness the Tower of David installations.
Chihuly’s love for color is seen in each one of his pieces. He has declared that the unbelievable combinations of color are a driving force in his works. “I’m obsessed with color — never saw one I didn’t like.”
Dale Chihuly’s latest events include his most recent exhibition at The Baker Museum in Naples, “Dreaming Forms: Chihuly Then and Now,” the third major Chihuly exhibition in the history of The Baker Museum, which includes stunning artworks presented in The Baker Museum as well as around the cultural campus.
In addition to that, The Rug Company is launching a collection of five limited-edition rugs in collaboration with Chihuly. The collection represents the work and dedication of master artists and craftsmen, starting with Chihuly and his team of glassblowers in Seattle and finishing with the master weavers in The Rug Company’s mills in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Dale Chihuly is a dominant presence in the art world — he has opened the doors for future generations of glass artists by elevating glass blowing to fine art in all its magnificence, a lasting contribution to the art of our times.