Chihuly Glass and the Nature of Art


In a recent article, we suggested you look into a visit to the local botanical gardens in search of the Wollemi Pine, which has recently emerged from the anonymity of declared extinction into the limelight of living dinosaurhood. And such is what one typically expects from a botanical garden or conservatory: the opportunity to become aquainted with strange, exotic, or rare species. However, in an age of eco-tourism and global imports, there are few things that retain the aura of foreign lands as they did when conservatories were originally conceived.

With the help of American artist Dale Chihuly, a number of gardens are exploring ways to challenge visitors to renew the relationship with the inspirations of nature. Chihuly's delicate glass forms blend into and contrast with the landscaped environments, inherently provoking questions about their fragility. Chihuly often exhibits outdoors, but the concept of integrating the glass works into a garden exhibit appear to stem from an invitation by a friend and mentor of Chihuly's, Jack Lenor Larsen, for Chihuly to exhibit his works at the Longhouse Reserve. The concept has since been taken up by various conservatories, including the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, which resulted in the book Chihuly Gardens and Glass. Now, the Kew Gardens will be the first European Garden exhibition of Chihuly's work.

Chihuly's works often blend into and echo nature, appearing to belong to the environment in which they are placed; other pieces are vibrant, colorful, playful, absurd. The ancient medium of glass in contrast with the threatened variety of nature questions the permanence of both: could the beauty of nature be replaced entirely by such art?

To find a Chihuly exhibit near you, check out Chihuly's website.