Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, WA

It’s been a while since my last post about our Pacific Northwest trip earlier this year. Time now to return to Seattle, Washington! I didn’t have time to visit any of the great public gardens, but I did spend a few hours at a very special place in the heart of the city: Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Opened in 2012 in the Seattle Center right next to the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden Glass is a museum showcasing the studio glass of Dale Chihuly, arguably the most famous American glass artist of our time. It consists of an exhibition hall, a conservatory (“Glasshouse”), a garden, as well as a café, lecture hall and retail space.

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Space Needle seen from the entrance to Chihuly and Glass

In December 2013 I’d seen a large Chihuly installation at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ and I was eager to see which pieces might be on exhibit here—his home turf, so to speak.

I was not disappointed. The large-scale installations in the exhibition space were breathtaking.

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Ikebana and Float Boats

Here are just a few photos. As you can see, the lighting is very dramatic. The dark backdrop really makes the saturated colors of the glass pieces pop.

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Mille Fiori

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Persian Ceiling

As impressive as the studio glass in the exhibition hall was, it paled for me in comparison to the visual impact of the Glasshouse. The website of Chihuly Garden and Glass describes it like this:

The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse. A 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space, the Glasshouse is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories. The installation in the Glasshouse is an expansive 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. The perception of the artwork varies greatly with natural light and as the day fades into night.

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I was dumbstruck by the impact this space had on me. There was nothing but glass, steel, and an undulating glass sculpture that brought to mind hundreds of umbrellas carried away by the wind. Simply breathtaking!

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And the Space Needle, easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire country, is right next door.

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Time to step outside and look at the garden. Again, to quote the website:

Anchored by four monumental sculptures, the exhibition Garden provides an opportunity for discovery and surprise. A rich backdrop for the art, it features paths lined with trees, plants and flowers. Crimson camellias, scarlet daylilies, dogwoods, hardy fuchsias and handkerchief trees provide the setting for the Crystal and Icicle Towers and an installation of Reeds on Logs. At the center of this lush landscape, on a bed of black mondo grass, is the Sun, an explosion of yellow and orange.

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Did I mention the Space Needle is right there?

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The garden is divided into several distinct areas, each with its own color scheme: blue, orange, yellow/green, brown/white, and red. The planting beds are studded with Chihuly pieces ranging from tall and skinny reeds, to neodymium gazing balls, to swaying cobra-like sculptures. They are matched by plants in complementing colors. If you’re interested, you can download a complete plant list from here.

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LEFT: Glass cobra sculpture  RIGHT: Real cobra lilly (Arisaema sp.)

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I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass twice: once in the early afternoon, and then again around 6 p.m. During my second visit, the Space Needle, bathing in the early evening sun, was reflected in many of the gazing balls.

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Here are some photos I took as we were going up the elevator to the top of the Space Needle:

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The dome is the Pacific Science Center and the gigantic flowers are by artist Dan Corson. Read about them here. Now take a look at the green roof on the right; that’s Chihuly Garden and Glass.

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Distorted view of the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass through the windows of the ramp leading up to the Space Needle elevator

Even if you’re not a big fan of Dale Chihuly’s work—you wouldn’t be alone—walking through the different areas of Chihuly Garden and Glass is an experience nobody will soon forget.

RELATED POSTS:

2015 Pacific Northwest trip index

20 comments:

  1. How fabulous! Worth the wait to see the pictures! Thank you.

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    1. Sorry it took so long. There were a lot of photos I had to go through.

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  2. Amazing photography! I saw the Chihuly exhibit at the Phoenix Botanical Garden and it blew my mind. I loved it, and the reminder of that gorgeous exhibit by way of your photos!

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  3. I've seen bits and pieces of this "garden" but I do think this was almost as good as being there in person! As I may have told you I'm not really a fan, so I also enjoyed the link you shared.

    Your photos showcase the beauty of a blue sky in Seattle...

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    1. I don't like all of his pieces either, but I find some of them to be absolutely stunning. Would I put them in my own garden? No, but I don't have the right environment for that kind of art.

      The sky was blue all day, and the views from the Space Needle were incredible. Not the best light for photography but perfect weather for doing touristy things.

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  4. Gorgeous glassworks, beautifully displayed and photographed. I'm impressed by the way you captured reflections of the Space Needle in your photos and that someone was smart enough to arrange placement of the glass pieces to allow that.

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    1. I bet nothing was left to chance. All the elements were placed for maximum effect.

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  5. Stunning! I've loved his work ever since we saw some of it at Kew a good ten years or so ago now. Would love to see them again but your pics seems just as good as seeing them in the flesh!

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  6. Your photos are amazing and the glass on that scale is stunning. The placement of the pieces/plants is really well done. Glasshouse needs some plants don't you think? Can't believe I haven't seen this yet when it's so close. Loved the Huffpost link!

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    1. You're so close, you must go. Knowing how much you love glass art, you would truly enjoy it.

      If this were my glasshouse (as if!), it would be full of plants, but the sparse interior focused all my attention on the ceiling sculptures--and of course the views of the Space Needle and the gardens outside.

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  7. I've only every seen Chihuly pieces exhibited outdoors and in smaller numbers -- seeing the indoor displays was quite different! I'm definitely a fan of some (but not all) of his work. The blue garden gave me a weird feeling for some reason, but the other colors seemed better.

    I have to admit that those are some of the best gazing balls I've ever seen!

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    1. Color is so subjective. Personally, I respond more positively to warm colors than to blues so I know what you mean.

      The gazing balls were fantastic, especially the ones coated (?) with neodymium.

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  8. I must re-blog yet another post of yours. Chihuly in the garden. This is a fantasy. I want to hop a plane tomorrow.

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    1. Thank you for re-blogging! I felt so fortunate that Chihuly Garden and Glass was located right next to the Space Needle and EMP Museum because they were our top destinations in Seattle.

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  9. Your photos are wonderful. Some of the pieces are interesting, others not--less often seems to be more--the cobra-lily shapes seem quite sensitive, a massed army of blue poles, garish.

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    1. I also find the poles to be his least interesting pieces, even massed like that. The cobra lily reeds were beautiful, as were the gazing balls.

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  10. Wow, beautiful photos, I think I have seen some of his work in Kew Botanical Gardens here in London, many years ago. I can’t remember the artist’s name, but I think it must be the same one as I can recognise some of the work. Absolutely beautiful.

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    1. Chihuly's work does have a signature look. I know he's had exhibitions at Kew, so most likely it was his work you saw.

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