Sometimes I get to have a little taste of heaven - experience creativity and beauty blossoming into magic. It's hard to predict, but when there's a Chihuly exhibit in the area, I know my odds are pretty high. After a morning at the new Chihuly museum here in Seattle, Washington, I wasn't disappointed. 

Our introduction to Dale Chihuly, whose masterful artistry blends whimsy and innovation to create stunning pieces of glass, began several years ago when we saw one of his chandeliers hanging in the Cincinnati Museum of Art. (That picture is part of an earlier blog on Chihuly here.) After seeing more of his pieces in Seattle and the Corning Museum in NY, Dan grabbed some videos from the library so we could learn a little more about the man and his method. We became official fans. 

The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum opened two months ago; a glass house and outside sculptured gardens nicely round out the several galleries, each dedicated to a series of glass. Although I love the chandeliers, I am often drawn to the Macchia bowls (Italian for spotted) with their rich panoply of colors. Challenging himself to use all of the colors available to him (over 200), Chihuly played with layering the glass, including a white layer to form a "cloud" background. Set under lights, the colors are truly magical.

The plantings in the garden were beautifully choreographed to complement the glass pieces on display; and we were pleased to discover that the Glass House offered a view of the Space Needle between the hanging floral designs. Perhaps my favorite moments, though, were spent under the lighted glass ceiling where strewn shapes and colors created a mysterious underwater effect. Below are several slideshows grouped according to theme.

For more infomation on Dale Chihuly, check out his official site here.

One thing that road trips allow is flowing from one community to another. The other passengers waiting for your plane can become a community, offering helpful tips and a map for your arrival in Seattle. Your seat mate can allow you a glimpse into the Boeing community, as he descibes the process of testing and refurbishing the new 787. Glancing at your map, he adds another destination point (check out Issaquah Falls) after hearing you're a part of the waterfall-loving community.

Driving into Moses Lake, our stopping point between Seattle and Flathead Lake, MT, I smile as I notice the signs posted supporting a local contestant on the popular show, "So You think You Can Dance." Although I haven't watched much this season, I am still a fan and easily connect with those wishing Caitlyn good luck while seeking to get out the vote!

The next day, with some time to kill,  we head into Spokane. As Dale Chihuly afficionados (see previous post here) we are in search of some pieces on display at the Jundt Art Center of Gonzaga University. Chihuly works in glass and I love his exuberance, creativity, and collaborative style. I find myself smiling at the whimsy, the color, the fun I sense is part of each piece! After checking out the exhibit, Dan and I take a few minutes to walk the Centennial Trail, joining the jogging/biking/walking community of downtown Spokane enjoying the riverside path that loops through downtown. There's a playful glass and metal art sculpture anchored in a manicured lawn that borders the river. And a sobering monument to a husband who died climbing a peak in the Himalayas.
How many communities do I belong to? How many can I enter? Each has its centering pull, some anchored in geography, others in shared interests. Some are familiar, others entice me with invitations to grow in new ways. I start to think now about what happens when I return home - and feel a fresh commitment to broadening my circles. There are, after all, surprises around uncharted bends, plenty of  things to learn, and new traveling companions to discover.
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.