Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass

Bostonians have gone wild for the vibrant glass art created by world-renowned artist, Dale Chihuly. The city is abuzz about the delicate but wild creations that look like they might be from outer space, the bottom of the ocean— or part of a psychedelic dreamscape.

Chihuly, a glass artist with pieces in museums around the world, is certainly no minimalist. His current exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art includes 12 installations, each with hundreds or thousands of pieces of glass, and took 18 days to install.

Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. Photo by Teresa Nouri Rishel. © 2008 Chihuly Studio.

In a WBUR interview, Chihuly stated that his motto is, “If big is good, bigger is better. If one is terrific, twelve is even better.” This sentiment is evident in the exhibit, which includes installations such as Mille Fiori (Italian for a thousand flowers), a 58-foot-long flower bed filled with plants, grasses, and reeds; Persian Ceiling, a 15- by 25-foot display of over a thousand dishes and flowers; and Lime Green Icicle Tower, a 42-foot, 10,000-pound bright green cactus created specifically for the MFA’s Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard.

It’s the vibrant colors that truly make the exhibit remarkable. The chandeliers featured in Chandeliers, including the spiky Scarlet Icicle and the playful Iris Yellow Frog Foot, are each devoted to a single color. Persian Wall focuses on warm colors, displaying red, yellow, and orange flowers and shells. But most of the installations are an explosion of color, blues next to reds, greens next to purples.

Dale Chihuly, Ikebana Boat, Seattle, Washington, 2011. Photo by Scott Mitchell Leen. © 2011 Chihuly Studio

These colors are in full force in Ikebana Boat, a weathered wooden boat filled with all sorts of glasswork in every color imaginable. The boat sits on a reflective platform, which gives the illusion that it is floating on a river. The sculpture was inspired by an experience Chihuly had while working in Finland. Always willing to experiment, he threw several of his pieces off a bridge to see if they would break. Finnish teens retrieved the (unharmed) sculptures in wooden boats, and Chihuly was struck by the image of his bright, glass sculptures juxtaposed against the old, wooden boats. This contrast is also on display in the stunning Neodymium Reeds, where purple rods shoot up from birch logs.

“Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass” is his first exhibit in a major museum in New England, despite his connections to the region. He earned a Masters in Ceramics at RISD and later founded their glass department, where he taught for eleven years and was an artist-in-residence for another ten. The exhibit is truly stunning and shouldn’t be missed.

The exhibit, included in general admission to MFA [Sat-Tue (10-4:45), Wed-Fri (10-9:45)], will run until Aug. 7;

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