While researching a trip to Seattle last month, there was one place that I knew I absolutely had to see, Chihuly Garden and Glass, a living installation situated at the base of Seattle’s famous Space Needle. It didn’t disappoint. The indoor-outdoor gallery features decades’ worth of work from internationally renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly from several decades. A Washington native with ties to my home state of Rhode Island (he established the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design and taught there for more than a decade), Chihuly has spent his career pushing the boundaries of glass blowing in areas from technique to magnificent, large-scale works.
Despite losing the vision in his left eye more than 20 years ago, Chihuly continues to put out pieces that are equally, if not more, impressive than his earlier works by putting ideas on paper and working with a team of glassblowers to bring his visions to life. The Garden and Glass installation pays tribute to this in the interior exhibition galleries, which feature sketches by the artist, his collection of Northwest Native American blankets — a source of much of his inspiration — and room after room of breathtaking glassworks.
Bridging the exhibition halls and gardens is a 4,500-square-foot steel and glass structure that juts off the main building. The idea came from a mashup of Chihuly’s passions, namely his love for conservatories and two of his favorite buildings, Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London.
“I want my work to appear as though it came from nature so if someone found it…they might think it belonged there,” Chihuly once said. His Seattle gardens fit the mantra. With each turn of the garden pathway, it’s clear that not one plant was hastily chosen, and Chihuly’s colorful and fluid outdoor sculptures are perfectly juxtaposed against them. The only thing that could make these gardens more spectacular would be to see them illuminated. While I didn’t have the luck to see that, the gallery and garden do stay open well into the evening for just that purpose. I expected the Garden and Glass exhibit to be stunning, but truly, it was breathtaking.
All images by Sarah Fernandez. Click on any image below to launch the gallery.