Recognized Tacoma, Wash., Glass Artist Dale Chihuly Has Work on Display in Orlando

Although for many people art means a painting on a canvas, artist Dale Chihuly takes a radically different approach."Chihuly Across Florida: Masterworks in Glass" is an extensive exhibit of more than 200 of the glass sculptures that the Tacoma, Wash., native has created since 1968, when he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work at a glass factory in Venice, Italy.

While there, he observed the team approach to blowing glass.

By 1971, Chihuly had gone off on his own and co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, where he led the avant garde in the development of glass as a fine art.

"Dale is blind in one eye," said Kendle Arribas, the marketing coordinator for the Orlando Museum of Arts, which is hosting the exhibit through May 30. "Therefore he's lost his depth perception, so it's dangerous for him to blow glass alone. So he uses the group methods and has teams blowing the glass while he supervises."

Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After he graduated in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the nation's first glass program at the University of Wisconsin, then continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. He later established a glass program there and taught at the Providence school for more than a decade.

His work has been on the road many times, touring museums across the globe with stops in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and the Bahamas. Chihuly is one of just four American artists to have had a solo show at the Louvre.

Arribas said one of the biggest challenges for the museum was ensuring the safety of his sculptures as they were being transported.

"He actually does his own packaging, and you know what -- only one piece broke in the process," Arribas said. "They're very strong."

Strong, and not inexpensive. Arribas noted that Chihuly's sculptures are available for purchase. "One for $3,100 is the cheapest at this museum," she said.

This is not the only place in Central Florida where Chihuly's work can be viewed.

"The St. Petersburg Fine Arts Museum is having a simultaneous showing of his works," Arribas said. "Ours are more modern."

On Feb. 27, Historic Bok Sanctuary hosted a day trip to St. Petersburg to view the exhibit, which includes many of Chihuly's large-scale installations. Chihuly is renowned for his architectural installations including "Chandeliers," which were suspended over the canals and piazzas of Venice in 1996, and "Jerusalem Wall of Ice" in 1999. More recently, he had an exhibit and outdoor installation at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

The Orlando exhibition has an array of colors and lights.

"Some of these (works) are interchangeable," Arribas said. "He doesn't always have the same pieces together."

One of the glass pieces is accompanied by enormous logs.

"Dale had to approve the logs we used," Arribas said. "It couldn't just be any old logs."

The museum also has Chihuly's "Jerusalem Cylinders."

"These are baskets from early on in his career, in the 1970s," she said.

Then there's "The Persian Ceiling": Literally, it's glass sculptures hanging above the patrons in a narrow hallway.

"When they set this up, we just got out of the way," Arribas said. "It was fun seeing them do the whole installations. When they were installing this (glass ceiling), the glass was so strong they could walk on it."

The exhibit also includes one new piece called "Rising Sun."

"It's never been seen before," Arribas said. "He rolls it while it's still hot into pieces of glass."

Also being shown are some of Chihuly's best-known series of glassworks, such as "Seaforms" and "Macchia," and some new installations and large-scale sculptures specifically designed for display at OMA. The museum also has a documentary video of Chihuly at work.

For the past month, the museum has been offering ongoing adult programs in association with the Chihuly exhibit. In addition to the road trip to St. Petersburg, there is a video series titled "Defining Craft" on April 14, 21 and 28, where patrons can learn about programs on stained glass, studio glass and studio ceramics; and a program titled "Home School Days: The Art of Blown Glass and the Science of Blown Glass" on Thursday, April 20.

600450 Recognized Tacoma, Wash., Glass Artist Dale Chihuly Has Work on Display in Orlando
Date: 12 March 2004

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