If there is any subject where this fractious republic might find consensus, then perhaps it’s in the beauty of Chihuly. Even those who might feel that the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly is crowd-pleasing anodyne would most likely admit to a revelatory moment upon witnessing his Japanese-inspired Niijima fishing floats or walking into Vegas’s Bellagio or glimpsing his shimmering sculpture The Sun in front of Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts.
My personal epiphany came upon experiencing Chihuly’s work at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden amidst a spectacular sunset that illuminated Chihuly’s glass garden in the Sonoran Desert. Amidst the garden’s fantastical flora such as the majestic Saguaro cacti and the surreal Boojum tree, Chihuly’s glass sculptures were an extraordinary complement to the indigenous species.
For the first time in more than a decade, Chihuly’s work will be featured in a major exhibition in New York at the New York Botanical Garden. Entitled CHIHULY, the exhibition, which opens in April 2017, will showcase 20 monumental new installations that will be integrated throughout the garden’s more celebrated sites—with dramatic illumination on select evenings. New hand-blown glass sculptures created for the Garden will be installed at the Native Plant Garden and the Haupt Conservatory’s Tropical Pool. As well, the exhibition will feature a display of Chihuly’s works on paper in the Mertz Library Building, the world’s largest botanical library with holdings that span ten centuries.
One of the world’s most popular living artists, Chihuly achieved early success after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, whereafter a Fulbright Fellowship took him to the Vernini factory on the island of Murano. Throughout his career, the 75-year-old sculptor has drawn inspiration from numerous sources such as Navajo blankets and Indian baskets, Italian Art Deco, the art of ikebana, and Japanese glass fishing boats.
At a recent Press Preview Luncheon at Grand Hyatt New York, Chihuly greeted guests via video from his Seattle studio. From the podium in the Manhattan Ballroom, Leslie Jackson Chihuly, President and CEO of Chihuly Studio, spoke about her husband’s 50-year artistic journey and the lasting imprint of Chihuly’s 1975 Artpark installation in Lewiston, New York where the artist used hand-blown sheets of stained glass. For the upcoming exhibition CHIHULY at the New York Botanical Garden, Chihuly will re-imagine that ground-breaking installation with two new compositions. Originally featured in the 2006 exhibition of Chihuly’s work at the NYBG, Blue Herons will be shown in a new context within the Haupt Conservatory, the nation’s largest Victorian-style glasshouse.
Founded in 1891, the New York Botanical Garden is a 250-acre National Historic Landmark with fifty gardens and collections that comprise more than one million plants, including a five-acre lilac collection and a 50-acre old-growth forest that once blanketed most of New York City. The NYBG offers a veritable portfolio of work by the nation’s most renowned landscape architects and designers such as Calvert Vaux, Beatrix Farrand, the Olmsted Brothers, and Lord & Burnham.
A celebration of color, form, and light, CHIHULY will be on view at NYBG from April 22 through October 29, 2017.