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Dale Chihuly (2000)
Glass with metal armature
51 x 50 x 50 inches
Born in Tacoma, Washington, on September 20th, 1941 to George and Viola Chihuly, he had a fairly ordinary childhood. His only brother died in an aviation accident when Dale Chihuly was 15. His father died of a heart attack two years later.
Dale Chihuly is a striking figure. His mop of curly hair frames his round, open face. Unfortunately his most distinctive feature is his eye patch, the result of a car accident. Visual distinctiveness may help some less talented artists gain popularity and fame. But Dale Chihuly glass would have been as popular as it is with or without his instantly recognizable face.
A fearless explorer of media and form, Dale Chihuly glass is some of the most inventive and playful glass art of recent decades. Using a variety of innovative techniques that are by no means crutches or gimmicks. Dale Chihuly art is distinct and led by a vision of form and color that are immediately his and his alone.
From the early 1970’s, Dale pioneered the use of neon lights with his friend James Carpenter. They created organic and surprising features like enormous chandeliers from delicate neon tubes.
Often employing the forces of nature, he sometimes lets gravity choose the form of the glass he creates, letting it fall and form in unpredictable ways. Other times, he draws from natural forms, using plants and patterns found at microscopic and macroscopic levels. The media he uses are as varied and interesting as the eventual results. Ice, tea, coffee, watercolor, acrylic paintings and graphite have been used in or been the root of some of Dale Chihuly art.
Initially, Dale Chihuly had no interest in further education but his mother insisted. He enrolled at college and ended up in Seattle studying interior design in 1960. Always creative, he found this dull and was looking for something else to satisfy his curiosity and creative urges. Then Dale Chihuly discovered glass blowing and fusing.
Soon enough, he had dropped out of his studies and traveled to Florence, Italy, to study art. From here he traveled extensively in the Middle East. He happened to meet the architect Robert Landsman. This and his experiences travelling inspired him to return to his studies. Dale Chihuly began with a weaving course and continued his experimentation and fascination with glass. Then he incorporated glass into the tapestries he made. His art glass received recognition and he won an award in 1964. Fusing the threads of his tapestries into glass, his series cylinders is an early and dramatic work that is indicative of his later development and style.
He finally completed his degree in 1965. Then Chihuly spent time glassblowing before winning a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There he studied under one of the pioneers of modern glass blowing, Harvey Littleton. In 1967 he attained his Masters in sculpture. Moving on to Rhode Island School of Design, he met and befriended Italo Scanga.
Dale Chihuly glass artwork was becoming recognized. He was awarded a Fullbright Fellowship and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant. He traveled to the prodigious Venini factory on Murano, one of the bastions of glassblowing. There he learned from the masters of glass art. Yet, he was dissatisfied with the formal nature of a lot of the work and sought to explore the medium in a more provocative and inventive way.
As with many artists of his generation, Dale Chihuly sustained himself with teaching for much of his life. He taught glassblowing workshops at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. It was a famous school that found a mutually beneficial relationship with Dale Chihuly. Encouraged and energized by his experiences running these workshops, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School with the patrons of art Anne and John Hauberg, in 1971. The school was rough and ready to begin with but soon was a hub of exploration, experimentation and free creativity. It has many famous and popular alumni, and is one of the greatest schools of glass and art in the world. During this period, Dale Chihuly glass art was expressive and creative. Having mastered many of the techniques of glassblowing, melting, and fusing, he created in a medium that few artists of his generation were using.
His early studies of architecture and interior design are clear to see in his artwork. Dale Chihuly views the environment an artwork is placed as part of the artwork, essential to the emotion of the work. Museums, botanical gardens, city squares and streets have been graced with his works over the years. His exhibits continue to innovate, always seeking new audiences and making his art as accessible as possible.
Chihuly over Venice (1996) and Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem took his artwork to some of the busiest tourist spots in the world. Being creative in familiar places, reinterpreting them and showing them in a new light. His hanging installations over the piazzas and canals of Venice, and the narrow streets of Jerusalem, sum up his work perfectly. They take inspiration from their environment, interact with their environment in an organic way, and give even those who profess no interest in art something to think about, or just enjoy.