Welcome to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Audio Tour. This guide will give you a behind-the-scenes take on all the pieces within the Exhibition. There are individual tracks for each room that you can play at your own pace as you move through the experience. Enjoy the Exhibition!
Kyle MacLachlan, Actor: Hi, I’m Kyle MacLachlan, and I’m excited to welcome you to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibition. Growing up in the Northwest, I was fortunate enough to be inspired by the arts at an early age and personally believe they are a vital pillar in the communities that they serve. Here in the Emerald City, Seattle Center Campus is the gathering place that has long provided visitors and residents alike a foundation in the arts. Home to the Seattle Opera, symphony and ballet, the Seattle International Film Festival, the Seattle Repertory and Children’s Theatres, the arts thrive at the center of the city; and the addition of Chihuly Garden and Glass now brings representation for the visual arts from one of the region’s best known artists.
Dale Chihuly, Northwest artist, and most known for his work in glass, changed the landscape of this vital art form through pushing the boundaries of the medium. Dale hopes to give back to the region by sharing this Exhibition with the world. Just as his artwork is woven into the fabric of the region, so are the many stories we will share with you today.
Jeff Wright, Chairman of Chihuly Garden and Glass: Hi, I’m Jeff Wright, the Managing Partner at the Chihuly Exhibition. My family and I are very excited at the opportunity to bring Dale here to the Seattle Center. When we thought about the possibilities, Dale’s name immediately came to mind. Dale Chihuly is an authentic artist who has shown his art throughout the world and we are so happy to have him here.
Dale Chihuly: Hi, I’m Dale Chihuly. I’m honored that the Wright Family invited me to exhibit my artwork. This Exhibition means a lot to me because over the years people have asked me what I always wanted to do and I always responded that I’d like to design and build, and incorporate a glasshouse into an exhibition. I’m excited that the day has come and that I am able to share my life’s work in the Pacific Northwest.
Dale Chihuly: I started working with neon at the University of Wisconsin in 1967, and by that time I was beginning to do little environments of glass installations. And I think I started working with Jamie around 1970.
James Carpenter, Architect, James Carpenter Design Associates Inc.: I’m Jamie Carpenter and I am a sculptor and architect living here in New York. The reason we began to work together is that we both had very, very different backgrounds. I mean Dale obviously had a background of textiles and interior design and then my background was really sort of in studying architecture and this whole interest in light and sculpture. So we were sort of coming at it from a very different perspective. And I think we were keen to basically explore and really push the whole idea of what this material could do. Here we are looking at this installation, which was done in the early ’70s, and what I think is most remarkable about this is talking about glass as both fluid material and sort of expanding its sense of fluidity and the sort of organic characteristics that it takes on.
Dale Chihuly: These are the simple shapes that were made when we gathered molten, white glass out of the furnace and just went up on a ladder and simply let the glass drop down; it sort of puddles out. We introduced neon inside the pieces, so it was technically a little complicated. That was back at a time when artists were very interested in working with technology and new things, it was a period from around the late ‘60s to early ‘70s.
Dale Chihuly: I think it was about 1977 that I was visiting the Washington State Historical Society with Italo Scanga and Jamie Carpenter. And we were looking at their Indian Basket collection and then it dawns on me that, “Hey wouldn’t it be interesting to try to make these baskets out of glass?” A lot of their baskets were old and crumply and they’re not always straight and firm. So, I got it in my mind that somehow I wanted to make them asymmetrical. First, I would bang them with a paddle to beat them up a little bit, but I soon learned that if I just used the heat of the furnace and the fire that I could get the same kind of movement from the fire itself and it was more beautiful. That was really the breakthrough series for me. To begin to form glass with fire, with gravity, with heat, with centrifugal force. I was just using human breath going down into this miraculous material, blowing it more and more, pushing its limits, making it as thin as I could and getting it so hot that it would almost collapse and begin to move. And I was pushing the edge of thinness and collapsibility and making new forms.
Rock Hushka, Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art, Tacoma Art Museum: If you look closely at the glass baskets and pay attention to the detailed drawings on the baskets, then look at the trade blankets you’ll see a remarkable similarity in forms, in colors, in textures. Dale realized that he could make glass vessels that mimic that and use his ability to make patterns on the glass that reflected the weaving and the patterns from various Native American cultures, and use that as a spark for his career.
Pablo Schugurensky, Art Advisor: All the works in these galleries, the Sealife Room, reflects Dale’s love of the sea. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest he always had a love of the water. The Sealife figures do not appear often in Chihuly’s installations. They’re only sporadically found on Chandeliers and Towers.
Dale Chihuly: I’ve made a Sealife Tower 20 feet high and it includes a lot of sea creatures in hopes that people will enjoy identifying them.
Rock Hushka, Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art, Tacoma Art Museum: All of the elements on the Sealife Tower reflect Dale’s profound understanding of the properties of glass, of its fluidity, of how it moves like water. There are kelp-like elements moving on the tower, and the creatures are moving through the currents of the water. All of this is reflected by the way molten glass moves in a hot shop, by the way gravity pulls it, the glassblowers twist and turn and let the glass flow as it is supposed to.
Dale Chihuly: I made the Sealife Tower to show how important the water is to my work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it.
Dale Chihuly: The Persian series started out with my interest in Persian glass and Roman glass, Egyptian glass. My good friend Martin Blank came to Pilchuck, got him a little crew, and he and that crew worked off on the side from where we were working creating miniature, small pieces that I could later elaborate on and try to see what I could make from it.
Martin Blank, Sculptor: Originally, the Persian series started out as an exploration of pattern and color. They began to morph from Seaforms to characters that might live inside these shells -- lots of weird Snooters and Tips and Pulls and Pokes. My role with Dale was to experiment and come up with new forms. It’s a very challenging dance to create a true Persian because when you’re working with glass you’re fighting that edge of being in control and out of control. It’s very poignant when you’re creating a Persian because you have to get the glass so hot that it wants to spin out and destroy itself by getting too thin, or not hot enough and be a boring, round plate.
Dale Chihuly: In creating the Persian Ceiling I was trying to make something that people had never seen before. So you walk under there and you look up and all of a sudden you have to start figuring out what you’re looking at and what is it, and how does it make you feel? I like to make people feel good.
Dale Chihuly: I’ve been inspired by so many things, one of which was growing up in a garden that my mother had. She had beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas and I would get to play in the garden and be around all these beautiful, natural forms. It also had a big influence on me, I think, in terms of color. Many of the installations are on black Plexiglas; a reflective surface. I love to work with reflective material. It gives a totally different dimension to the work, and the perspective changes as you move around the piece.
Stefano Catalini, Artistic Director, Bellevue Arts Museum: The first time I saw Mille Fiori in the Tacoma Art Museum in 2003 was an amazing experience. I drove down to Tacoma with a lot of expectations but I think the experience of entering the room was beyond my expectations. There were these explosions of colors, primary colors, yellow, blue, red, and forms. These forms were clearly natural, they were organic but they were not imitations of natural life. They seemed to have a life of their own.
Dale Chihuly: The forms have been inspired by work that I’ve done in Finland in Nuutajӓrvi, in Ireland at Waterford Crystal, in Monterey, Mexico. It’s a series made up of maybe fifteen or twenty different forms.
Catalini: Mille Fiori has an interesting title for me, being Italian. Mille Fiori in Italian means “a thousand flowers.” The reference actually is not directly to gardening, but rather to a type of honey. It’s a time of year when the bees are not collecting honey only from one type of flower but many flowers, a thousand flowers. I was fascinated by how these spears and tendril like forms that Dale had created in these primary colors were referencing the organic, viscous forms of honey, as in the forms of nature, of life forms.
Dale Chihuly: It also has a lot to do with the process of glassblowing. When you’re experimenting with forms in the way that I like to work and sort of developing new forms, often they seem to look like they should belong in nature. So it’s a combination of the glassblowing process and inspired by places that I’ve visited over the years.
IKEBANA AND FLOAT BOAT
Dale Chihuly: I’ve always loved the water. I was raised in Tacoma, Washington on the water in the Pacific Northwest. As a little kid we’d beachcomb and find Japanese fishing floats and when we went to Finland I had the opportunity to throw the glass into the water and then we’d retrieve the glass in these Finnish rowboats like you see here.
Gerry Ward, Curator of American and Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus Museum of Mine Art, Boston: The Ikebana and Float boats that you’re looking at here in this installation were inspired by Dale’s experience in Nuutajӓrvi in Finland in the mid-1990s. While he was there he got it in his head to throw his large glass forms off a little bridge into the local river near the glass factory there. Local teenagers would pick them up, put them into little rowboats, bring them back to shore, and Dale would take them out and chuck them in again. This went on for some time and he really liked the way his glass looked in these wooden boats. It’s really I think one of his more successful installations. It just evokes all kinds of imagery in peoples’ minds and delights them tremendously.
Dale Chihuly: After my accident in 1976, I still blew glass for a while but I could never really blow glass as well. And it was always complicated because there were people around me and I could not see my left side very well. I didn’t have any depth perception, so it made it difficult for me not so much for me but it made it difficult for the people around me, because they were always worried that I might not see them. That was really the beginning of my drawing – the more I drew the more I liked it. Sometimes the Drawings would be about the glass, sometimes they’d just be Drawings – a way to release the energy, a way for my mind and body to be creative while the glassblowing was going on.
Kiki Smith, Artist: You know he’s doing things where he’s making moves, in a way, and then I’m sure afterwards he has to kind of look at them and see. You know also it’s a way to mine new experience, to see colors or form emerge in a way that’s just by doing. It’s setting up a physical situation where you just do and repeatedly do something and sometimes, you know, each time something new comes out of it.
Dale Chihuly: From the very beginning the Drawings were done as my glass is done – very quickly, very fast. I started out with the graphite pencils for the Seaform Drawings and the Persians, and I switched to charcoal for the Venetians, and then I’d begin to add some color, probably watercolors initially, and then liquid acrylics. Then I got into these golden acrylics about 10 years ago when I discovered that they made these - they were the first ones to do that I believe. Then I started painting with the container itself, just squirting the paint out, but I would always have sponges and brushes and mops and brooms around if I wanted to use other implements to draw with. I’m sure the Drawings are far more important than people probably think they are. I think they play a very central role in my creativity. If I didn’t draw I don’t think the work would have progressed at the rate or in the directions that the work has gone. The Drawings are a really major part of my work.
Dale Chihuly: I woke up one morning and I said “I want to hang chandeliers over the canals of Venice, my favorite city.” I probably took that to the extreme with the Chandelier series, which I started in 1992 with the Seattle Art Museum. There was a spot in the exhibition that wasn’t working very well and 10 days before the show opened I decided to make a chandelier. I had seen a chandelier in Barcelona a few months before when I was traveling, in a restaurant, and there was a chandelier hanging at eye level, because there was a low ceiling. It was really beautiful. So you looked underneath the chandelier as you were sitting down and it acted as sort of a centerpiece for the table. I loved this idea of hanging a chandelier at eye level, and it triggered something that said, “I now can make a Chandelier, because it doesn’t have to be functional.” So I made a Chandelier for the Seattle Art Museum that looked sort of like yellow balloons. It was made up of about 500 parts – very simple forms that a beginning glassblower could make, almost, but we did it quickly. We did it in the 10-day period with a couple teams of glassblowers on it and we hung it there. It probably weighed 500 or 1,000 pounds, and that began the Chandelier series.
Patterson Sims, Independent Art writer and Curator: In Dale’s case, he’s a wonderful combination of amazing deliberation and incredible spontaneity. And so we decided to create a series of installations, the first time it have ever really been done, to look at Dale’s work through the guise of him as an installation artist, not necessarily an object maker. And it was sort of a new way even for Dale, I think, to look at his work and it was sort of transformative for him, because he’s become an artist who is incredibly well known for his large-scale epic installations. A few days before the exhibition opened Dale felt the show needed just, “something more.” He decided the show needed another element, and an element that really would stress the ceiling. So much of the walls and the floor spaces of the institution were transformed by the show that he did that he wanted to think about what he could do on the ceiling. So he created a group of hanging works which we really realized were sort of wildly baroque chandeliers, and so the Chandelier series was born.
Ben Moore, Glass Artist: It was the late 70s when we first found the German colors – that is, the German manufacturers of colored glass that was primarily produced for the stained glass industry, and we were able to incorporate it into our use for making studio glass here in America. Up to that point we had all made our colors ourselves and so consequently it was rather rudimentary, not a big palette of colors to work with, and all of a sudden “boom,” there was like three or four hundred colors that became available. I think the excitement of all of the sudden having this huge palette of colors to work with was an incredible thing, and Dale just had this idea – “I want to capitalize on this and put all this color to use,” and hence the concept or the idea for the Macchias came along.
Dale Chihuly: I guess I woke up with the idea that I would work with all 300 colors that were available to us that we bought from Germany. So I put one color on the inside, and then a translucent or an opaque white in the middle, and then another color on the outside. Because this white was put on as big chunks of white, to give it more texture and variety, they ended up looking like clouds. One day somebody is writing an article about me and they said, “What about this new series?”, and I said, “Well right now I’m calling this series ‘The ‘Uglies’ because my mother said they were ugly, and she called them ‘The Uglies’”. But I said, “I don’t suppose that will do for the name of the series.” So I called up my good friend Italo Scanga, who is Italian, and I said, “Italo, I’ve got to have a name for this series. They’re spotted, with these spotted clouds and spotted exterior.” And I said, “What’s the word for ‘spotted’ in Italian?” and Italo said, “I can’t remember. I’ll look it up in the Italian dictionary”. He called me back and said “Spotted is macchia.”
Ryan Smith, President and Creative Director 3form LightArt: When Dale presented the project initially he said this is going to be an exterior and an interior Exhibition. And we started talking about all the different parts of it, and it became really clear that the exterior part of the project was going to have a Glasshouse. I mean, he has this wonderful collection of postcards of old conservatories – he’s always loved that construction. His famous story of the pavilion that was built in something like three months, the Paxton’s Glass Exhibition Pavilion, was about this big greenhouse that was beautiful – the structure was beautiful, and the space was beautiful. That was part of the experience of his Garden and Glass Exhibitions. It’s always been about the building and the greenery and all of that outdoor experience.
Chihuly: It’s been really inspiring for me to be able to design a glasshouse with Ryan Smith and Owen Richards. I’ve always wanted to design a glasshouse – I’ve collected photographs of glasshouses for most of my life and they’re my favorite buildings of all. I love some of the most beautiful little houses, like the Matisse Chapel in Vence, Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the Great Crystal Palace of 1851.
Owen Richards, Owen Richards Architects: The arched shape was one that Dale was very interested in adopting because it was what all the traditional conservatories of the 19th century had, but the asymmetrical shape was one that evolved through a study of what seemed to be best for this kind of particular site where we had this amazing force of the Space Needle on the one hand and the other major architecture at the Seattle Center and the surroundings.
Dale Chihuly: I love the idea of being able to make the Glasshouse and also make what’s going to be inside it at the same time, so you have perfect control over the building and the artwork that goes inside it. I made just one gigantic piece of sculpture to go inside that’s 100 feet long and 25 feet high, mostly from reds, yellows, and oranges. It’s designed to fill up the Glasshouse but yet to leave a lot of negative space as well, and to be able to reflect back into the surface because of this beautiful glass structure.
Dale Chihuly: The lovely Garden that we designed is about 26,000 ft. sq. and I worked with Richard to design the landscaping around the several installations. There’s a yellow-green tower, a red tower, there is a neodymium Reeds, there’s blue Fiori – it’s an interesting way to work, to be able to have the landscape come in second, after the glasswork.
Richard Hartlage, Principal, AHBL: Once they decided what pieces they were going to use in the Garden then they started talking about which colors. Color’s a big factor in what plants we chose, what flower colors were chosen to compliment the art.
Dale Chihuly: We’ve got the yellow sun elevated up in front of the Glasshouse, we’ve got the red Mexican Hat Tower, the Green Icicle Tower, the Pink Polyvitro Tower. All the reeds that you see in the Garden: the blue ones, the red, the neodymium lavender pieces – all of those were made in a little glass factory in Nuutajӓrvi, Finland.
Charlie Parriott, Glass Artist: When you look at the glass Reeds and many of the other outrageously tall and crazy forms that are in front of you, know that it took a special place to be able to create those kinds of pieces. We just don’t have that kind of place here in Seattle but there is a place in Nuutajӓrvi, Finland, and the reason that we can do it there is because the ceilings in the factory are extremely high, they’re 25 feet tall. Plus the colors that they make there are not like anywhere else in the world, and every so often the Chihuly team has gone to Finland to work with a team of Finnish glassblowers and art students and administrators in this little factory way out in the middle of nowhere. And we’d be in there making these Reeds or these Saguaros, as they were called, or Seal Pups, or many, many other things.. All of those combinations of colored glass were in the furnace or big ovens, and we could get to where within two hours after making an object it would come out slow cooled and processed, ready to take back to an installation like you see now.
Kyle MacLachlan: Thank you so much for visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass. I hope this project will bring you a better understanding of Dale Chihuly and his work. As well as visibility to the Pacific Northwest arts organizations that already serve the educational, civic and cultural needs of our city.
Dale Chihuly: Enjoy your time here in the Pacific Northwest, and take advantage of all the art and culture it has to offer.