Saturday, October 14, 2017


The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, was founded by Alice Walton (daughter of Walmart's originator, Sam Walton), and designed by architect Moshe Safdie.  It opened on 11-11-11, and has been a great success in terms of providing access to acclaimed works of art to all who visit.  That is because it allows free public admission!  Since I have written several articles in the past extolling the virtues of Crystal Bridges (see "Blog Archives" on 12/12/11, 4/6/12, 4/5/13, and 7/23/13), suffice it to say I am a big fan of theirs!  This photo shows the entrance, as it is enhanced with red columns, announcing the Chihuly exhibit.

The indoor Chihuly exhibit had some incredible examples of blown glass that had been fused together.  This particular "bugle-shaped" piece reminded me of some on display at the Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.  Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1941, and he has not forgotten his roots there. ( I wrote articles about how his work is showcased in Tacoma, in blogs dated 9/21/12 and 9/22/12, which the reader can find in the Blog Archives)

These intricate blue and clear glass spirals defy gravity, and make my mind try to grasp how difficult it was for the glass blower to create them.  We know that it was not actually Chihuly who blew these shapes, since he has not been able to hold a glass blowing pipe, since an accident in 1979.  Rather, he is seen as the "choreographer of a group of dancers".  He dreams up the concept and shapes he wants, then skilled artisans try to execute them.  Sometimes they work, and sometimes they crash to the floor and shatter into a thousand pieces!

My favorite in this section of the exhibition was the red and yellow piece pictured here, because it reminded me of sea anemones I have seen while scuba diving. 

An amazing aspect of the Crystal Bridges Chihuly exhibition was how close the viewer could get to the pieces on display.  The docents told us the only restriction was "No Touching", but we could get up as close as we wanted to view the artwork!  If I were the glass blower who created that piece, I would be much more protective! However, when I saw Chihuly interviewed on PBS, he said the fragility of glass is what makes his work so exciting and thrilling to him!  For me, the fragility of glass just makes me nervous!

Notice how there are no barriers between the large installation pictured here, and the visitors who are looking at it.  To me, it is a strange coincidence that it is glass that has made Chihuly famous, yet it was glass that resulted in the loss of his left eye in 1976.  That is when he was involved in a head-on car crash in England, during which he flew through the windshield.  His face was severely cut by the windshield glass, and he was blinded in his left eye.  The black patch he wears over that eye has now become his trademark. 

Chihuly collects Native American trade blankets, and that collection was also on display, along with his glass pieces.

Chihuly has commented that Northwest Coast Indian baskets that he had seen as a child, were the inspiration for some his his glass baskets.  This photo shows Native American baskets on the right, and Chihuly glass baskets on the left.

The first time I ever heard of glass artist Dale Chihuly, was the television coverage in 1998, of some of his work that was being installed in the newly-opened Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  When my husband and I visited the Bellagio later that year, I was looking on the walls and tables for these famous glass works, but not seeing anything.  Finally, I asked one of the female clerks at the Hotel Registration Desk, "Where do ya'll display that  Dale Chihuly glass stuff?"  In a very condescending tone ( no doubt brought on by my unmistakable Southern accent and hillbilly appearance), the lady said, "The MASTERPIECE is above your head, my dear."  And sure enough, when I looked up, there it was on the ceiling!  His installation, called Fiori di Como, is composed of over 2,000 hand-blown flowers, and covers 2,000 square feet of the lobby ceiling.  It truly was amazing, and I have been a Chihuly fan ever since!

In fact, I have a framed photo of "The Masterpiece" in my bedroom, that has an abstract appearance, similar to this tangle of colored glass tubes in this photo.  The "tubes" installation is one of the first pieces you see, as you start your 1.1 mile trek on the newly built North Forest Trail at Crystal Bridges. 

The preparation for the Chihuly exhibit at Crystal Bridges began in 2013, when Chihuly himself walked the grounds, as well as the indoor spaces of the museum.  For a complete listing of his past exhibitions, and future installations, you can visit his official website at .  This boat full of glass pieces reminds me of a flock of swans, all huddled together and extending their necks. One has to wonder, which future installation this boat will sail to next!

Chihuly has done numerous installations in public gardens, and my first time to see his work in an outdoor setting was when it was presented at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, in St. Louis.  (Photos from that installation are on my blog post dated 7/11/12).

The Chihuly team includes a lighting director, and visitors are being encouraged to view the outdoor pieces after dark, as well as in the daytime, to  fully appreciate the translucent properties of the glass.

Likewise, even without artificial lighting, the glass "reeds" change in appearance, depending on the location of the sun. 

These forms bursting out of the ground remind me of mushrooms that suddenly push their heads out of the soil, after a period of extended moisture.  (Although the indoor exhibition of Chihuly work at Crystal Bridges has ended, you can see the outdoor installation along the North Forest Trail until November 13.  For exact hours of operation, log on to )

This massive ten foot tall sculpture is called "Sol d' Oro", which means "Gold Sun".  The white spires remind me of those that make up a glass Chihuly Christmas Tree, on display in the Clinton Library, in Little Rock, Arkansas (See blog archive for 3/8/12).

I read that the spiraling columns of glass jutting out from the center were created in Seattle, where the piece was assembled.  Then they were individually numbered, and disassembled.  Then they were VERY CAREFULLY packed for shipping to Bentonville.  Then they were VERY CAREFULLY unpacked and reassembled on the grounds at Crystal Bridges.  I find this INCREDIBLE!

One of my photography instructors years ago taught me to experiment with backlighting from the sun on your chosen subject.  When I did this with the "Gold Sun" piece, I was able to see that there were indeed, pieces of GOLD glass, that are not seen in a quick glance of the piece. 

I am using the Chihuly "Gold Sun" sculpture, as the visual aid to help me learn my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  Psalm 84:11 .  Several folks at the "Gold Sun" sculpture were getting their photos taken, with their heads being framed by the sculpture, and I was no exception!  It was fun reading the comments about the photo on Facebook, and getting more "likes" than any other photo I posted.  What the First Place 4 Health memory verse helps me understand, however, is that the "likes" of many, cannot compare with the favor of our Lord!  Having this promise from God, AND seeing the Chihuly exhibit at Crystal Bridges, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia