Several years ago, my husband and I had our introduction to the marvleous artistry in glass of Dale Chihuly. We were visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum with a friend and struck by the exuberant extravagance of a glass sculpture hanging in the foyer. It was love at first sight. Since then, we've been on the lookout for more of Chihuly's handiwork, discovering chandeliers in Seattle (his hometown) and the Corning Glass Museum. Last winter, Dan brought home some DVDs that described the history of Dale's creative process, his team approach, and showed footage of several installations that he'd done around the world. These were usually in gardens or conservatories, blending his exquisite glass objects with lush vegetation and colorful plantings.
So imagine my delight when I heard that there was a Chihuly exhibit at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI, and that my husband had a business trip planned and was willing for me to tag along. It didn't hurt that I could also see a dear friend and visit my sister and family on either side. We were set!
Friday was cool but sunny, a perfect fall day for viewing the gardens and as we left our car and headed across the parking lot to the main entrance, my husband pointed and said, "there's one." In the distance we could see a tree of brilliant reds and greenish yellows, flinging its curlicued "branches" into the crystalline blue sky. The time flew by as we wandered from one grouping to the next; garnet spikes sprang from the hillside, graceful herons clustered in meadow grasses, glass that mimicked calas and jack-in-the-pulpits blended with colorful mums under fall foliage. Inside the conservatory, we explored the tropical forest; bishop weavers and canaries chortled and warbled while we discovered clam-shaped translucent bowls under a grove of bamboo, and fluted platters of gold resting in the tiny stream.
Outside once again, we followed the path to the sculpture gardens and rounded a corner to view a reed-rimmed pond, sporting floating glass reminiscent of hershey kisses, or miniature domes flung from a Russian cathedral. Hugging the far shore, a skiff was overflowing with a crazy array of sunshine yellow swans and oddly-blown black shapes that just had to be penguins! Further along the walkway, we marveled as carefully formed glass spheres perched on waterfall ledges, and a tower of yellow crystals caught the autumn sun.
By the time we finished walking through the gardens, we were ravenous. My friend had made me promise not to miss eating at the cafe. "You'll be sorry if you don't," she said. There hung enchanting chandeliers, clusters of flowers that traced the rainbow as they arched and spun across the ceiling. We ate our lunch and continued to feast our eyes on the whimsical mastery of a dedicated artist.
I think what I love about Chihuly is just that, the combination of mastery and whimsy that flow from his love of glass, and his playful curiosity. What happens if...? This love and curiosity, blended with a deep knowledge of the medium, allow him to create art that is technically flawless, delightfully innovative, and joyfully inspiring.
For more pictures of Chihuly at the Meijers Gardens, click here