Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, and attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where he studied interior design and architecture. After graduating in 1965, Chihuly went on to earn a degree in glassblowing from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an M.F.A. in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design where he later established the school’s glass program.
In 1968, Chihuly was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and went on to become the first American glass blower to work in the prestigious Venini Fabrica on the island of Murano near Venice. It was here that Chihuly absorbed the master-and-team collaborative approach that he has continued in his own studio in the United States. In 1971, Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, and is credited for leading the avant garde development of glass as a fine art.
Chihuly lives and works in his loft, which is nicknamed “the boathouse” for its former use on Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. Since losing vision in one of his eyes in an automobile accident in 1976, Chihuly no longer has the depth perception necessary to handle the molten glass himself. He now conceptualizes each project with paint on canvas and then employs a team of artists to fabricate his designs.
Chihuly’s work reflects his love for Washington as well as his interest in the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. His vibrant, curvaceous sculptures explore dynamic color combined with natural forms, and he often displays his sculpture in outdoor surroundings, entwined around tree branches or floating in water. The Blue and Beyond Blue chandelier, in the permanent collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art, is part of Chihuly’s sculptural exploration of sea forms which are rendered by writhing, sinuous, tentacle-like shapes which seem to coil and slither around themselves. The 257 intricate parts of this sculpture came together as a cohesive whole, demonstrating his mastery of form and design.
His work has been exhibited in over 200 museums and he has been the recipient of many awards, including seven honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts. Chihuly’s complex, multi-part pieces are a tour de force of luminous color and organic shapes. He is best known for his series of works including Baskets, Seaforms, and Persians, in addition to large-scale architectural installations. In 1995, he embarked on the international project, Chihuly over Venice, which involved glass factories in Finland, Ireland and Mexico and culminated in sculptures installed over the canals and piazzas of Venice. In 2008, he was featured in the NBMAA’s own blockbuster exhibition Contemporary Glass: Chihuly and Beyond.
What do you think about the fact that Chihuly’s work is exhibited in museums as well as places like the Bellagio Resort or the Atlantis Resort and Casino? Do you think these two resorts are appropriate places to exhibit artworks? Why? Why not? What do you think distinguishes these two locations from showing the work for example, in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden or Union Station? How does an exhibition space change a work of art?
The NBMAA would like to thank the following donors who generously donated to fund the acquisition of Chihuly’s masterpiece Blue and Beyond Blue:
Ann and Bruce Bachmann in memory of Rosamond and Sidney LeWitt
Ann Beha Architects
Dr. Gerard E. Bogucki and Mrs. Jayne DePole-Bogucki
Kenneth and Judith Boudreau in memory of Helen P. Warren
The Rhoda and David Chase Family Foundation
In memory of Sharon Costello by her family and friends
Kathryn and Thomas R. Cox, III
Thomas C. Flanigan and Jonathan E. Stone
Karl and Muriel Fleischmann
Robert and Francine Goldfarb
Thomas and Gloria Gworek in memory of Adam J. Gworek
Douglas and Tita Hyland in memory of Patricia and Samuel Hyland and Alice and Keith Merrill
Dr. Richard L. and Nancy F. Judd
The Keeney Manufacturing Co.
Judie and Coleman Levy
Henry and Sharon Martin in memory of Matthew
Melanie and Bill McCue
Drs. Timothy McLaughlin and Marian Kellner
The Mitchell Family Foundation
Helen Ryan, Patricia Farrell and Bill Farrell in memory of Helen and Bill Farrell
Charles and Christine Shivery
David and Nancy Staub
Robert and Claudia Thesing
Michael and Florence Timura
Vose Galleries of Boston, Inc.
Lindsley and Gwendolyn Wellman