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Monday, January 14, 2013

Dale Chihuly

Growing Art, Dale Chihuly's Seattle Garden and Glass
Sometimes an artist needs to step back and take a look at his or her work from a different perspective. It's not easy to do. To use a trite phrase, old habits die hard. Sometimes the artist is forced to do so. Dale Chihuly was forced to do so. Actually, he very nearly never had the chance. Not many people survive a head on automobile accident. Chihuly did, though he lost his left eye and his face was severely mangled by glass from the windshield. Then, three years later, in 1979, he also survived a body surfing accident dislocating his shoulder. Ironically, it was this additional misfortune which forced him into the role of "choreographer," as he puts it, in the creation of his heroically phantasmagorical sculptured glass creations. No longer able to handle a hefty blowpipe laden with the added weight of a massive glob of molten glass,  Chihuly took on the roll of supervisor and director. In stepping back, he decided he "liked the view."

Only the soaring height of Seattle's landmark Space Needle dares to compete with the
organic splendors of Chihuly's daring creations.
Dale Chihuly was born in 1941. He's 72 years old. Though healthy, wealthy, and wise, Dale is well past his prime insofar as the physical act of governing the unruly predisposition of white hot glass. Like dozens of other millionaire postmodern artists today, Chihuly designs, he trains, he imagines, he manages, he promotes, writes books, and stars in TV documentaries. Moreover, all this he does on a grand scale. It would not be inappropriate to say he "manufactures art." His personally trained artisans churn out massive pieces at a rate and on a scale comparable to Boeing...or at least General Motors. If you've ever seen a Chihuly in person, such as those at his Seattle Garden and Glass at the base of the city's famed Space Needle, it's an experience you'll not soon forget.

Touched by the master (supposedly).
Not all Chihuly glass is monumental. Some of it is merely large. Some stands favorably to human proportions. Other pieces. available in his gift shops, are actually quite modest...except for the price. Today, Chihuly is as much entrepreneur as artist. But then, that's somewhat always been the case. From his part in the 1971 founding of the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, to his endless workshops and exhibitions all over the country, Chihuly has grown from a cottage industry to a towering giant. His biomorphic, organic, one might even say orgasmic art soars far beyond that of any other glass sculptor. It would be even be fair to say, he towers over virtually any other 21st century sculptor in any medium.

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