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Chihuly Garden is feast for the senses

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Chihuly Garden 004
Staff Photo/Deborah Stone Chihuly’s “Sun” is an explosion of yellow and orange.
The wait is over. The highly anticipated Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center is officially open to the public.

The nearly 45,000- square-foot showcase of glass with its Exhibition Hall, Glasshouse and Garden, is an ode to the prolific career of noted artist Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition Hall, which contains eight galleries and three “Drawing Walls,” offers visitors a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s significant series of work.

Each room is an explosion of color, light and texture that captivates the senses. In “Glass Forest,” long, slender tubes of neon and glass appear as trees, immersing viewers in a dazzling woodland.

Nearby, in the Northwest Room, Native American baskets and trade blankets line the walls, along with a gallery of photographs of Native Americans taken by well-known photographer Edward Curtis. These items, all from Chihuly’s personal collection, have at one time or another served as inspiration for the local artist.

You can see the region’s influences at play on the varying-sized glass baskets he created, which show correlation in shape and design to those of the collected artifacts.

The Sealife Room is a wonder to behold; its centerpiece, a vibrant tower in blue that is inhabited by golden sea creatures.

Look up when you enter the next gallery and set your sights on the spectacular Persian Ceiling.

The tapestry of colors and their reflected lights upon the walls will transport you to the land of the Kasbah.

In Mille Fiori, hundreds of glass flowers are set upon a reflective, plexiglass pond.

Pops of color spill out of two wooden boats in the Ikebana and Float Boat gallery and in the “Chihuly Over Venice Room,” the artist’s iconic chandeliers hang from the ceiling like jeweled pendants.

The last gallery is the Macchia Forest.

The inception for this series came from the artist’s desire to use all 300 of the colors of glass available in the hotshop.

The results bring to mind gigantic, spotted mushrooms out of an “Alice in Wonderland” scene.

The Exhibition Hall also features the Collection’s Café, The Theatre, The Bookstore and Chandelier Walkway. In the café, which is named for Chihuly’s fondness for unique and vintage objects, visitors can dine on Northwest-sourced and globally-inspired cuisine, while gazing at a selection of the artist’s favorite collections — 28 in all.

Vintage accordions hang from the ceiling and each table has a built-in collection of its own, ranging from fishing rods and clocks to ceramic miniature dogs and string holders.

An acrylic Drawing Wall with 36 of Chihuly’s colorful drawings provides additional eye candy.

Of special note is the collection of bottle openers that line the walls of the bathrooms.

Those interested in learning more about the artist’s working process can view a series of short videos in The Theatre, while shoppers can head to The Bookstore, a mecca of unique items that reflect the creative spirit of our region.

The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse, the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories.

Inside is a newly-created installation of epic proportions, measuring 40-feet tall and 100-feet long, and consisting of 1,340 individual components.

The stunning floral sculpture, which is done in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and ambers, is suspended in all its glory from the ceiling.

Its design draws inspiration from two of the artist’s favorite buildings: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London.

The Glasshouse will serve as an event space for several of the exhibition’s non-profit partners, including Pratt Fine Arts Center, Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle Public Schools and ArtsFund.

Outside the Glasshouse is the Garden, which provides a rich backdrop for the art with paths lined by trees, plants and flowers.

At the center of this landscape, on a bed of 4,500 plantings of black mondo grass, is the 16-inch in diameter “Sun,” an explosion of yellow and orange that has the power to brighten up even the grayest of Seattle days.

A collection of “Reeds on Logs,” featuring nearly 500-year-old salvaged old growth western red cedar from the Olympic Peninsula, is also a key anchor of the gardens. The 30-foot -tall lime green “Icicle Towers” and 20-foot-tall pink “Crystal” bring to mind popsicles and rock candy, respectively.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is the most comprehensive, long-term exhibition of the artist’s work to date.

Organizers expect this immersive art experience to attract over 400,000 visitors per year and the hope is that it will become an enduring tribute to the Pacific Northwest’s spirit of innovation.

For more information: www.chihulygardenandglass.com.

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