My talents in art never lay with sculpture. I am not very good at creating anything in the three dimension, and I have been much more drawn to the use of vivid colours and curved lines on traditional surfaces as canvas or paper. So the works of Dale Chihuly — he who looks like your favourite pirate neighbour — intrigue me. His medium is sculpture and his talent is beyond being just a master glass blower, producing creations far from the kinds of art works I am usually drawn to. But Chihuly’s brightly hued shapes and installations are so unique they are compelling to just about every viewer: myself, other art lovers and the general public.
Detail of Persian Ceiling from top photo
Le Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, or the Museum of Fine Arts, here in Montréal has been hosting this solo exhibition since June which will culminate on October 20th. We went on a Wednesday evening to take advantage of the cheap Wednesday night tickets that provide guests with access to the temporary exhibition only — in this case, the Chihuly exhibit — from 5 pm to 9 pm for only $10 CDN. We knew that crowds would form long lineups to the ticket booth so we came in a bit past 5 o’clock to avoid the long wait.
We also came equipped with a nicer camera than that provided by our smartphones, but our camera died so we ended up resorting to shots from my iPhone and my friend’s Samsung Galaxy phone. These photos didn’t come out too bad, no?
Chihuly’s works are equally about the experience as much as creating beautiful, tangible art works to gaze at. The exhibition was customized specifically for the Musée des Beaux-Arts through the creation of eight different “environments” for his installations. Chihuly took into account the space where he is presenting his works — using both the walls and ceiling, and appropriate lighting. This is why his works have names such as Glass Forest and Macchia Forest because when you step into a room filled with his works, you become immersed in Chihuly’s enchanted glass world, something like an Alice in Wonderland experience of jumping into the rabbit hole.
Of course, on the technical side, Chihuly is innovative in his use of glass with the way he is able to meld the material with metal and fibre, and his expertise in stretching and melding glass into dream-like patterns and textures. I remarked to my friend how the American artists’ works are almost sexual — not that I feel Chihuly’s works are phallic in any sense, but because the material is moulded into sensual, fertile creations. The forms are sleek and slippery, the colours are vivid like the way lips redden, and the lines are coiled like a controlled explosion. Maybe I’m the only one getting this vibe, I don’t know.
By the way, Chihuly’s eye patch is the result of a car accident in 1976 where the artist smashed through his car windshield, ironically causing the glass shards to blind his left eye. Chihuly was involved in another accident, three years later, when he dislocated his shoulder from a bodysurfing accident. As a result, Chihuly no longer engages in the glass blowing process himself, instead directing assistants to do the work. This is actually not too uncommon in the art world; little known fact is that Miuccia Prada, head designer of the Italian luxury fashion house, Prada, does not sketch or sew her designs but instead has her team translate her themes and concepts. Chihuly is more hands-on but this points to the fundamental questions of what is and what makes someone an artist in today’s contemporary world.
The Young Philanthropists’ Circle is hosting an event at the exhibition, Chihuly Unplugged, this coming Tuesday September 24th. Find out more details here or drop by the Musée des Beaux-Arts before October 20th to catch the general exhibit before Chihuly exits Montréal.
Glass Floor, #6
Machia Forest, Detail
Another look at the Machia Forest