Saturday, June 14, 2008

Moving Up In Line

Discovered the most wonderful perk this morning--that if you have a membership to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco then you can ignore the sign behind the counter at the De Young that says, "Next Chihuly Tour 1 pm." You can ignore it--you get in the 11 am tour at 10:45 because YOU ARE A MEMBER.

Not that I'm advocating. :)

This was the best museum exhibit that I have ever seen. Not that I expected it to be anything less. "Chihuly at the de Young," now through September 28th, is a non-stop and surprisingly diverse trip through the soul of glass designer Dale Chihuly. I first saw his work in the home of then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was showing an interviewer a rather large and splaying glass bowl that you would never serve a salad in--the salad would look like sewage in such elegance. A few years after that interview I caught Chihuly on CBS Sunday Morning, with several of his pieces on display outdoors and in, and I was so smitten that when I found him again last year in the Saxe exhibit room at the de Young I vowed to visit as much as possible. It is consistantly my favorite exhibit room, full of not only Chihuly's work but glassworks by many of the world's best glass artists.

Not quite sure where my love of glass art comes from, but the roots may have started to put down in childhood. My mother used to line various glass perfume and wine bottles in windows facing west in our house, in both the sills and precariously balanced in the splitting of the sash (Northwest Ohio not being known for earthquakes), and when the sun set in the spring and fall before the greening of the forest the glass would throw a garden of rainbows across the east wall. In various parts of the Midwest there are miniature theme parks with old-time craft houses in them, and these parks always sported blacksmiths and glass-blowers. My favorite works of man were ivy of steel and speckled glass globes blown in front of my eyes. "Blow out, always," the blower would say, "one wrong inhalation and you have a lung full of molten glass."

Chihuly has been critically injured a couple of times himself (although not while blowing glass), and he no longers blows his own pieces. Artists that assist him are credited throughout the audio tour, in his own voice and with the voice of the announcer. It struck me as odd that he can't do his own work, but it also struck me as remarkable in the fact that his drawings and paintings (in two of the exhibit rooms) convey to his artists the effect he wants, and these effects are consistent with earlier works solely by him. His influences also stun me in the fact that I can relate to them so well--for the nature pieces, his mother's garden in Tacoma, and for the cultural influences, his travels. One exhibit is an entire room of pieces arranged to look like a tall, jungle-like backyard summer garden, with reeds and blooms and stems in all shapes and explorations, and other exhibits nod to his trips to the Southwest (a whole room of tan glass pieces that look like Native American baskets) and Venice. Chihuly's work seems to state: "Here's who I am, and over here is what I did with it. And over here is what I loved."

As Anne Shirley would say, I found a kindred spirit in the works of Chihuly. My only hope to do with words what he does with exploded sand.

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