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Chihuly Exhibit in Grand Rapids well worth a visit

I’ve never been all that excited about Chihuly—you know the world famous glass sculpture artist who seems to pop up around the world in less than traditional art venues.  I haven’t understood what all the fuss was about. Well, now I know.

Dale Chihuly  is not only known for his artistic vision but also his practice of putting together teams of artists with exceptional glass blowing skills.  According to the biography on his web site, his efforts, “ have led to the development of complex, dramatic multi-part sculptures of dramatic beauty and scale that place him in the leadership role of moving blown glass out of the confines of the small, precious object and into the realm of large-scale sculpture and environmental art.”

Somehow to me, he seemed over exposed, too commercial, I don’t know, I just didn’t have that emotional connection that one must have with an artist’s work to “love it.”

Then we started going to Chicago fairly frequently for business and often enjoyed breakfast at the NoMi restaurant in the Park Hyatt Hotel on Michigan Avenue.

I grew to be quite fond of the row of large Chihuly light fixtures that hang from the ceiling of this uber cool restaurant.  Seemed like just the right juxtaposition of color, form and shape in this seventh floor eaterie with its restful green textured carpet, simple furniture, black and white photos and stunning views of the Water Tower, Chicago Contemporary Art Museum and Lake Michigan beyond.

Art? Decorative Art? Sculpture?  I don’t know what to call them. I just know I grew to like them.

But now I’m moved over to the “Big Fan of Chihuly” because of the amazing exhibit of 15 installations at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in my home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  If you have time to get there this summer, plan a trip.  And plan plenty of time so you can walk around the extensive grounds and enjoy both the pieces installed inside and out as well as this beautiful facility.

The four- month show is in honor of the 15th anniversary of the Gardens and it is stunning.  The pieces are nestled in swampy areas, perched on waterfalls and hidden under huge plants.  They stick straight  up in a fields and creep up hills.  Some times they are “in your face,” other times, hidden subtly from view until you round a bend and then can’t help but gasp.  “Wow.”

I particularly like the ones that look like icebergs—maybe because they evoke an image in my head of ice floes in Alaska.  I had a wonderful experience once on the Inland Waterway of Southeast Alaska on a The Boat Company ship—a trip worth doing.

But I digress.  The Chihuly pieces are amazing and I think what I like so much about them is the way they fit into the natural landscape of the Gardens, to be enjoyed my thousands of people this summer.  What a lovely escape from whatever reality one is dealing with—whether a difficult time or simply  the desire to take a lovely  walk in the park. They have the capability of taking you away.  And isn’t that what art is all about?

The friend I recently visited the gardens with summed it up, “They belong here.  I hope they get to stay.”

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

7 Comments
  1. posted by
    Linda Laughter
    Jul 2, 2010 Reply

    I totally agree!

  2. posted by
    Margaret Cheff
    Jul 2, 2010 Reply

    Hi Susan,
    I enjoyed visiting the Chihuly exhibit with you, Ann, AND your camera…to see the exhibit a second time through your photographic “lens” is memorable. And yes, I DO hope we can keep a few of the Chihuly’s for “ourselves”…especially the “walla wallas” (love that name!)

  3. posted by
    ann stevenson
    Jul 2, 2010 Reply

    As a gardener nothing could be more pleasing for me than gardens, water features, and art beautifully integrated to create excitement and awe. The exhibit also creates the experience of “being on the hunt” looking up & down, anticipating what is around corner and in the water—what a delight!

  4. posted by
    R. Lyle Boatman, ASID
    Jul 2, 2010 Reply

    Wow! I recently had the priviledge of attending the NewSchool of Architecture & Design graduation, held at the Salk Institute each year. There is a recent installation of 5 Chihuly designs there that is truly inspiring. Funny thing though: as I knew about the Meijer Gardens exhibition, I expected that I might see some repitition. Fascinatingly, there is none. Well, some forms show up again and again like the globe with spiraling tail that is used (first ?) in the aqua colored huge “Chandelier” at the addition to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Still, as much as I have admired this work, I cannot say I have ever seen the same thing in the same color twice! I am really looking forward to seeing this exhibit, first hand, later this Summer. Your great photographs are a testament to its awe-inspring beauty!

  5. posted by
    Kate D.
    Jul 2, 2010 Reply

    The photos and the prose with this blog piece are of deliciously impressive quality – I hope Meijer Gardens gets wind of it — you have done great justice to a great artist and his current local venue!

  6. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Jul 3, 2010 Reply

    I completely agree with your impressions of the Meijer Gardens’ Chihuly exhibit. I loved how and where the various configurations showed up! Our daughter has lived in Seattle for 17 years, so we have been interested in Chihuly for a while and appreciated the many forms his work takes. Wonderful pictures Susan! Thanks for sharing.

  7. posted by
    SOFA CHICAGO –A feast for the senses | DesignDestinations
    Nov 16, 2010 Reply

    […] was  amazing stuff and I even recognized some names like Dale Chihuly.  If you live in Grand Rapids and don’t know that name, you have been out to lunch.  The […]

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