A March, 2012, comment noted, “Garden & Glass will be the most comprehensive presentation of Dale’s artwork on public view.” (chihulygardenandglass.com), so Ruth and I visited this “12,208 square-foot pavilion with gallery spaces” 2 months after it opened.
Born in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly started the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design, worked at the Venini glass factory in Venice, Italy, and went home to Washington to create much-imitated glass art. His only setback on the road to international recognition, as far as I know, was a car accident in the 70s that resulted in loss of vision in his left eye.
Ruth and I first became aware of Garden & Glass when a hotel concierge told us that is was going up in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle and that he had a rare opportunity to visit Chihuly’s eccentric lakeside house. The concierge told us to make sure we visited the Garden & Glass restaurant and check out the tables to better understand the artist.
Chihuly creates large, flamboyant glass sculptures and visiting Garden & Glass was, for me, like taking one of his installations and multiplying by a million. I was already tired of dazzle by the time I entered the Sealife room containing a 15 foot blue crystal and beige tower. While spotting starfish, octopi, and conch shells and thinking “a bit too much” the women around me were saying, “Incredible!”
This experience would repeat in almost every room. There were 3 times as many female visitors as men and they were rapturous. So, for the first time I will rate an attraction 4 Compass that women would clearly award 5.
Chihuly began his Persian Ceiling series in 1986 “to provide an immersive experience in color and shape.” While I was admiring the hues reflected on the walls, the women were gaping at the ceiling and exclaiming, “Amazing!”
I rather liked Mille Fiori, a glass garden inspired by memories of Chihuly’s mom’s garden. It was certainly a riot of color (see photo above) and cohesion.
The Ikebana themed display, in my opinion, was way overdone. While I turned my back on it to admire the subdued paintings that Chihuly did after he stepped away from glass blowing after his accident, the women were taking photos of 2 wooden rowboats filled with glassworks inspired by a visit to Niijima, Japan, that apparently called up memories of Puget Sound fishing net floats. “Fantastic!” the women concluded.
In Chandeliers, a room with several single-colored glass eruptions “he pushed scale and placement” according to wall notes. This is, I was told by staff, the room that Chihuly is not happy with. Neither was I.
But I really was happy with, ironically, the outrageously colorful Macchia Forest. The gigantic glass bowls reminded me of Chihuly’s earlier Seaforms on speed. In a super-creative burst of genius, he rolled molten glass in small shards of colored glass during the blowing process “in a desire to use all 300 colors in the hot shop.”
We wandered outside to the garden part where tour guide Amy told us about the four areas that mingle plants and glass. I learned that the long and skinny spears rising from the earth had to be made in a specialized kiln in Finland and that glass doesn’t like to be outside when the temperature drops below freezing for an extended time.
Chihuly Garden & Glass has a 30-year contract to use this space, so there’s no need to rush to see it unless you’re a female Chihuly fan.