September 20 – Happy Birthday, Dale Chihuly

Posted on September 20, 2013

Dale Chihuly's glass ceiling at the
Bellagio in Las Vegas.
When I was a kid, I was amazed by glass blowing. I don't remember seeing a lot of glass blowers—perhaps just one of those guys in a shop who creates tiny delicate horses and dragons and flowers while you watch. 

I was so surprised that hard, breakable glass could be so flowy, could be blown and plucked and carved and sculpted into so many different shapes!

As an adult, I've been to some great glass places—from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York to the Waterford Crystal Glass factory tour in Ireland, from the demonstrations at Cal State Fullerton College's glass blowing studio to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.

And one of the standouts in some of these places is the glass art of Dale Chihuly!

Chihuly doesn't dabble around making inch-long dragons for little girls. Many of his pieces are HUGE – a 30 foot (10 m) long chandelier, for example, or a 15 foot tall (5 m) tower. And these aren't large flat pieces – they are fully three dimensional. 

Some of Chihuly's pieces are representational (one may look like a crazy arrangement of brightly colored flowers, for example), but others look like a more abstract form of craziness. Twisting, bulbous, or ribbonlike, golden or azure or grass green, the glass seems to be organic, growing, living, moving things—but not necessarily anything you've ever seen before!

One of the most amazing Chihuly experiences I've ever had was walking across his Bridge of Glass. We crossed a wide freeway on a 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass, from the Museum of Glass to the old train station, where more Chihuly works are displayed. We passed the Venetian Wall, where 109 of Chihuly's works are displayed—natural light pouring through the glass wall, through the glass art, to our delighted eyes—and we passed the 40-foot-tall Crystal Towers, which looked like they'd been plucked from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Excited to spot the Chihuly windows of the train station, we trotted over the last bit of the Glass Bridge – and it was only on the return trip that we noticed the best part of all—a ceiling of glowing, colorful “sea creatures” made of glass. To be exact, there were 2,364 glass sculptures placed on top of the 50-by-20-foot plate-glass ceiling! And of course, the glass wasn't literally glowing, but again, the natural light pouring down through the glass was transfixing!

Chihuly was born on this date in 1941, in Tacoma. I think it's very ironic that this artist, who is considered THE preeminent glass artist in the world, was badly injured by glass—but not by the glass he works with! In 1976, he was in a car accident, and he flew through the windshield. The glass cuts he suffered resulted in blindness in one eye. Chihuly wears a black eye patch (and yes, he looks a bit like a pirate!).

Three years later, a bodysurfing accident left Chihuly unable to hold a glass blowing pipe, so now he has to have assistants do work that he directs. He has said that he is now "more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor."

Also on this date:

Plan Ahead!

And here are my Pinterest pages on October holidaysOctober birthdays, and historical anniversaries in October.

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