As Chihuly Garden and Glass’s opening draws ever nearer—May 21st, early next week—the Museum of Glass in Tacoma has announced a tie-in exhibition with a Saturday opening. Tomorrow evening, a collection of Chihuly’s early work will debut in an exhibit entitled “Origins” and featuring work from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as those of local collectors. George R. Stroemple, who possesses enough of Chihuly’s works to have had his own Chihuly exhibition (titled “Chihuly Baskets,” and exhibited in 1997), contributed some pieces that have rarely been seen by the public. One such piece, RISD Goblets (1968), are among Chihuly’s first glassblowing attempts; its organic shapes and unfinished feel stand in stark contrast with the sleek arabesques Persian Sea Forms (1988), a thirty-three piece installation created well after Chihuly’s year at the Venini Fabrica workshop in Murano.
“Origins” will focus on two decades that witnessed an immense amount of change in Chihuly’s career and vision, as well as serve to supplement Chihuly Garden and Glass’s perspective on Chihuly’s artistic evolution. In a prepared statement, executive director and curator Susan Warner says, “most of [Chihuly’s] designs are represented here and reveal a fascinating journey of experimentation when compared to his later works, like those on the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and what is sure to be displayed at the new Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center.”
In a similar nostalgic vein, the Museum of Glass will also be hosting “Classic Heat,” a collaborative effort between the Museum and LeMay – America’s Car Museum. Opening May 23rd, the exhibition features eight large-scale glass hood ornaments that comprise the exhibition were created by John Miller and the Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team, and inspired by such classic automobiles as the 1952 Buick 8 Special, the 1957 Chevy 210, and the 1929 Ford Model A. The exhibition will have two separate openings, one at the Museum of Glass on May 23rd and one at the opening of LeMay itself on June 1st.
With these three openings—Chihuly Garden and Glass, “Origins,” and “Classic Heat”—comes an opportunity for visitors to appreciate glass art in the way only museum and gallery spaces can facilitate: an experience of the past that provides new perspectives on the present. Like “Origins,” Chihuly Garden and Glass will show visitors the evolution of one artist, a movement from wild experimentation into precision and order. In addition to newer pieces, including Glasshouse (set against a dizzying horizon, just next to the Space Needle), the space will also display more familiar work. The exhibition hall has eight galleries, among which are the Glass Forest, the Sealife Room, the Persian ceiling, the Macchia Forest, and one devoted entirely to the infamous Chihuly Chandeliers. (For more pictures of Chihuly Garden and Glass, check out the gallery below.)
Chihuly also incorporated an incredibly personal touch to the facility, in the form of the Collections Cafè. On display are Chihuly’s personal collection of vintage items, which include carnival chalkware, accordions, radios, cameras, and more. The acquisition of these items was a lifelong project for Chihuly, who himself has said he likes “to find beauty in everyday objects.”
As for Chihuly, he has expressed immense satisfaction with Chihuly Garden and Glass’s completion. In a recent Seattle Times article, he was quoted as saying, “What I wanted to do there was take the very best from all the museum shows I’ve done over the years and add a couple of new parts to it. I’m so pleased with the results. It was beyond my expectations, really.”
IF YOU GO:“Origins” May 19th through October 21st, 2012 Museum of Glass 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, WA 98402-3217
Tel. 866-468-7386 SLIDESHOW OF NEW IMAGES OF THE CHIHULY GARDEN AND GLASS