Heading to Boulder for the Thanksgiving holidays, the Denver Botanical Garden with a Chihuly exhibit, running throught November 30th, offered an appealing option for a side-trip.
“I want my work to look like it just happened, as if it was made by nature.”
~Dale Chihuly

Chihuly, born in Tacoma, Washington, has long been associated with the Pacific Northwest, where he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle in 1971. A permanent display of his works, Chihuly Garden and Glass, opened in 2012 in Seattle at Seattle Center. His works are in the collections of some 200 museums worldwide, and exhibitions have been staged around the world,

As an artist, Chihuly has always been a scavenger of images and ideas. He’s known for translating forms and patterns from nature and other media into glass: the designs of Native American blankets, the undulating shapes of sea creatures, the orbs of Japanese glass floats.  Chihuly began making forms that deliberately allowed glass to spin off-center. He invented a mode of working with the molten material that let it find its final shape in its own organic way. It’s ironic that Chihuly, a leader of the studio glass movement, reverted early on to the factory model of production. His franchise has grown from a small glassblowing shop in the 1980s to a conglomerate that produces, warehouses and ships thousands of glass components each year for sale and display. He has built a multimillion-dollar business, generating the bulk of that exposure himself. Most of the exhibitions have been organized and distributed by Chihuly Inc and most of the books and television shows have been produced by Chihuly’s publishing company, Portland Press.

Chihuly’s Garden Cycle, builds on the strongest aspects of his prior Chihuly Over Venice and Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000 projects. It consists of a group of exhibitions at a number of different sites: the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England, and gardens in the United States. The cycle format enabled him to rework the original set of ideas established in the first exhibition, inside Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago in 2001.  Then he moved on to botanic gardens with glass conservatories and finally to venues chosen by garden type: a tropical garden, a desert garden, a sculpture garden, and estate gardens. Subsequent exhibitions included new works developed for each garden, resulting in a different experience each time. The glass forms came more from the natural process of glassblowing that Chihuly and his team have explored and perfected. Planning these installations required lengthy discussions about plantings and their colors. For some venues, Chihuly’s studio installs lighting for very popular night viewings. His team packs, ships, installs and de-installs all the artwork for shows, exhibitions and installations around the world.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables  12/6/14-5/31/15
Denver Botanic Garden                                           6/14/14-11/30/14
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix                          11/10/13-5/18/14
Dallas Arboretum                                                    5/5/12-11/5/12
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park,           4/30/10-9/30/10
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Chihuly at Cheekwood, Nashville                          5/25/10-10/30/10
Seymour Botanical Conservatory, Tacoma            11/16/08-02/22/09
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix                         11/22/08-5/31/09
Fairchild Botanic Garden                                       12/9/06-5/31/07
New York Botanical Garden                                   6/25/06-10/29/06
Missouri Botanical Garden                                     4/30/06-12/30/06
Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago                     11/01-11/4/02

The exhibit came 1,300 miles from Tacoma,  with thousands of glass pieces wrapped in foam that was reassembled in the Denver Botanic Botanic Gardens. The boxes, along with armatures, hardware and tools, filled six 53-foot tractor trailers. Then a lengthy installation process ensued with a team of 11 Chihuly Studio employees spending 17 days.

Blue and Purple Boat and Walla Wallas by Dale Chihuly
at the Japanese garden at the Denver Botanic Garden

…at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix
…at Franklin Park Conservatory
‘Boats’ at the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum 
Sunset Boat, 2006,
Dale Chihuly’s boat sculpture transforms the canal pond at Chatsworth.
Carnival Boat
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables
Boat lit at night at cheekwood, Nashville

The Denver Botanic Gardens recently announced that it will purchase a large sculpture from Dale Chihuly.  Chihuly announced that a new work from the Tower series titled “Colorado”, inspired by the local sunsets, will be added to the Gardens’ permanent collection. The piece will be customized for a spot in the center of a pond in the Ellipse rose garden.  The sculpture will consist of 750 pointy red, orange and yellow rods that will shoot off a central axis standing over 11′ tall. The work will look like it is floating above the water.

A rendering of glass artist Dale Chihuly’s “Colorado,”
which will be added to the Denver Botanic Garden’s permanent collection.