Glazing the Garden

Dale Chihuly is responsible for expanding the studio glass movement to encompass collaborative teams in the creative process, and establishing blown glass as a vehicle for installation and environmental art. The Seattle-based artist has generated a range of blown forms infused with vibrant color and linear decoration, and today continues to push the boundaries of glass. These achievements come alive in his current garden installation, Chihuly at The New York Botanical Garden, attracting both the art and garden-loving crowds.

“He’s been a great and relevant figure—a groundbreaker—in figuring out ways to work glass that are unique,” says Todd Forrest, Vice President of Horticulture and Living Collections at The New York Botanical Garden who worked with Chihuly to bring his art to the Garden. Chihuly visited the Bronx-based gardens three years ago to study its famed conservatory and was invited to install his pieces around the Garden’s 250 acres. “It was a kind of mutual courtship,” Forrest says.

And it is an ideal location to showcase Chihuly’s work. For one, the breadth of the installations highlight the varying forms developed over his forty-year career. Some pieces are reminiscent of Chihuly’s fascination with abstract floral forms while others allude to his love of the sea. The vast range of glass and the immense scale of many of the installations are suggestive of the collaborative effort involved in the creation of the forms as well as their installation. A team of 30 Chihuly-trained artists came to the Garden to install the exhibition. Forrest notes “Watching [some pieces] get installed I saw these seemingly light pieces being firmly rooted to a steel armature. The engineering is amazing.”

Chiluly’s sensitivity to architectural context and his interest in the interplay of natural light off of glass are ever present. The exhibit is successful in heightening its audience’s appreciation of installation and environmental art, as well as encouraging exploration of the Garden. It’s a form of mastery on the surface, showcasing the Garden as both canvas and inspiration.

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Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden is on view now through October 29th. During the evening, Chihuly’s work takes on a new vitality when lit against the dark sky. Chihuly Nights is offered every Thursday evening through October, with a final showing on October 28th. For more information, visit http://www.nybg.org/chihuly.php.

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