Thursday, May 3, 2012
Review and photos: Dale Chihuly glass sculptures brighten Dallas Arboretum
You don't want to miss Dale Chihuly's colorful, cartoon world.
Traipsing past the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures at the Dallas Arboretum is like hopping down Alice's rabbit hole. Bright, whimsical spires of blown glass jut high in the sky, protrude low in flower beds, and float in specially-made boats in water features at the Arboretum. Fifteen installations were made specifically for Dallas by the famous glass artist, and their final debut is the result of years of work to get them here.
Costing $1.8 million to maintain over the course of six months, the Chihuly exhibit at the Arboretum is a first for the site. Arboretum officials expressed interest in a exhibit by Chihuly 10 years ago, but at that time his work hadn't been reconfigured for an outdoor setting. Chihuly has since exhibited in 10 other outdoor gardens, and now Dallas gets its turn.
If there ever was a time to visit the Dallas Arboretum, it's May 5 through November 5, when the Chihuly pieces will be on display. The art complements the flowers in both color and style, making the Arboretum just a little groovier than it was a few weeks ago. Each installation shines colorfully during the day and will be illuminated at night -- "dramatically," we're told.
"Our recommendation has always been to get out here and see it twice," -- at night and during the day, said Gillian Breidenbach of Bank of America, a sponsor of the exhibit, along with AT&T.
The exhibition's high points are the 15 special installations that Chihuly created just for Dallas. But the gardens also feature some pieces created as far back as 1995, which look as good as new. Glass orange orbs blossom up next to flowers of the same color, and zebra-striped cylinders stand rooted in another flower bed. Because of the bold colors, bright as a cartoon, Chihuly has made a grandiose mark on the botanical garden without being tacky.
It took crews two weeks to assemble the thousands of pieces of glass, which were put together with cranes, ladders, scaffolding, and scissor lifts. They're said to be able to withstand severe weather, but Dallas is a first: "We've never dealt with golf-ball-sized hail, so that's the only thing I'm worried about," Chihuly said.
The glass pieces are cleaned with diapers and Swiffer wipes and treated with non-ammonia chemicals, said Chihuly's publicist Janet Makela. When not on display, the pieces are disassembled, shipped back to Washington, and stored in giant containers and on shelves in a warehouse. The Dallas-specific pieces will also be shipped to Washington after their run, and Chihuly's head of exhibitions Britt Cornett wasn't sure if they would be re-exhibited.
The inspiration behind Chihuly's work doesn't appear to be terribly deep or emotional, according to Chihuly's explanation. He's inspired by nature and simply riveted by glass-blown pieces. "I just try to make something that nobody's seen before," he said.
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