Color on a Cloudy Day – A Visit to Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibition – Sienna Byrne ’23

Usually when going to an art museum, I expect to mill around the galleries looking at various paintings or wander down a few statue-filled corridors. However, my visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition in Seattle completely turned my idea of being immersed in art on its head. The long-term exhibition first opened at Seattle Center in 2012, and dynamically displays the works of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly in various gallery settings, as well as intertwined with natural elements in an outdoor garden. 

“Ikebana and Float Boats” 

From the moment I stepped into the first gallery, it was an all-consuming experience. The lighting was somewhat dim, which starkly contrasted the electric colors of many of the glass displays. Before visiting the museum, I had only ever seen decorative plates or occasional garden decorations made from blown glass, but I was not prepared for the variety of art that can be done in the medium. One particularly striking display was a small rowboat filled with various glass shapes and placed over a reflective, almost water-like surface. This display, and some of the more round shapes in it, reminded me of the old glass fishing floats that I would occasionally find on the beach growing up. 

Colored light filters through the hallway ceiling. 

As I continued through the gallery portion of the exhibition, I came to a hallway that instead of using the walls to display art, used the ceiling. Colorful glass shapes placed over a clear panel conjured up the feeling of walking through a rainbow as the light filtered through to the hallway below.  The garden portion of the exhibition was also very memorable, as the imaginative glass sculptures distinctly contrasted the cloudy weather and gray city skyline. One of my favorite pieces from the garden section was a large yellow sculpture that had been created out of hundreds, if not thousands, of curling glass tendrils all attached together at their bases. 

The Space Needle rising above one of my favorite sculptures in the garden. 

Visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition was visually breathtaking, but also inspiring in the sense of finding success through passion and creativity. Born and raised in Tacoma Washington, Dale Chihuly pursued his interest in art, and specifically glass blowing, over many decades and at various educational institutions including University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, and Rhode Island School of Design. In his career, not only has Chihuly traveled and worked with other renowned glass artists from all over the world, he has managed to make a life out of what inspires him. As most of us currently remain in quarantine, this is certainly something to think about when looking to design one’s future. 

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