The Columbus Museum of Art recently unveiled Chihuly Illuminated – a show of glass, color and light that will remain on display throughout the museum’s renovation.
The exhibit’s centerpiece is Mille Fiori. Italian for “a thousand flowers” this garden of glass spans the length and width of a small pond. Sapphire spirals, orange cattails, an inverted yellow chandelier and yellow platters with scalloped edges resembling giant water lilies reflect off a black acrylic base. The mirror surface adds depth to the piece, giving the illusion that you could step into it and submerge yourself in color.
In a recent Columbus Dispatch article, Columbus Museum of Art Director Nannette Maciejunes likened the shapes and colors contained in the piece to a baroque symphony.
The exhibit includes six installations that spans four decades of work and is designed to give the visitor insight into Chihuly’s creative process. Perhaps no piece speaks better to personal influences on his work than the onyx and caramel chandelier. Following his mother’s death in 2006, Chihuly created the Black Chandeliers – the lack of his signature vibrant colors reflecting his period of mourning.
In stark contrast to this colorless time in Chihuly’s career, is his work with glass and neon. Glass Forest is a melding of hand blown white milk glass and neon light. By dropping molten glass from a ladder, long stems were allowed to form before the glass hit the floor and then solidified.
The color found in Dark Violet Rain Forest Tumbleweeds, on display in the museum lobby, was created by mixing argon gas with mercury vapor.
In 1971, Chihuly founded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. Designed as a studio/apprentice environment, it shifted the focus of glass making from a solitary art form to a collaborative process – a process that would become a necessity for Chihuly, following the loss of his peripheral vision due to an accident.
As he began to create large scale pieces, his art required a team effort. With an emphasis on the effects that gravity and centrifugal forces have on his glass creations, scale has set Chihuly apart from other glass artists.
In keeping with his love of scale, Bowls on Felled Tree is a display of glass vessels on a two ton section of pine tree. The piece pays homage to the geometric patterns and vibrant colors of Native American Indian blankets, as well as to the graceful relaxed forms of woven baskets he has collected over the years. Here, the effects that gravity, weight and time have on objects are exemplified by the drooping edges of his tobacco colored vessels.
Special thanks to Nancy Colvin of the Columbus Museum of Art for the guided tour.
Posted by Pamela J. Willits