Wednesday, July 20, 2011


photo, Diane Carnevale

Dale Chihuly is no doubt the most famous glass artist since Tiffany, revolutionizing and raising the craft of glassblowing to serious fine art. Raising it really high. See this detail from the lime green icicle tower? It stands a mighty forty-two feet tall and took thousands of individual pieces to make it. It's the first piece I saw when I walked into the Through the Looking Glass show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston yesterday, and it literally took my breath away. And that's just the beginning. There are rainbow-colored persians, tall reeds, exotic chandeliers, and big huge marble balls that are all made of glass. The mille fiore—Italian for "a thousand flowers"—is a riot of exploding colorful pieces of glass in various shapes and sizes. All works are magically lit from above and cleverly reflect on black bases. The entire show was an enchanting panoply of wonderment.

POST SCRIPT: July 26, 2011

Read two related stories on the MFA Chihuly show:

This first Boston Globe article mentions the Museum of Fine Art's fundraising to acquire a Chihuly piece, including a mention of my humble $1 donation toward the cause, and the second article depicts a completely different view on the artist, raising valid points on Chihuly's art.

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So what is art, and who gets to decide what's art and what's kitsch? Is it just whoever thinks of it first? This could be a long post so I am forcing myself to keep it short. I tend to sway towards the classics so it surprises me how much I love Chihuly's work. I've visited dozens of art museums and churches throughout Europe and the British isles (including the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia!) and have seen a very wide range of classic and modern art. Yep, the good, the bad and the burnished gold leaf. I really like Chihuly's work and defend those who call him a craftsman more than an artist. 

I'm a big fan of chairs and in 2009 I painted 365 watercolors of them on my Chair du Jour blog... is that art?  Modern, mass produced, molded plastic chairs are in permanent collections at New York art museums... is that art? Louise Nevelson made art with found objects that she assembled and painted black... is that art? I've seen the giant shuttlecock installation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri... is that art? Surely some folks think portraits of Marie Antoinette or King Louis the Whatever are ridiculous and antiquated, just as some may think that the mod giant baby head sculptures flanking the MFA's Fenway entrance are somewhat creepy. Indeed, we all have our own ideas of what makes art, art. I am slowly learning to expand my definition of it. Whatever your opinion of what art is—or isn't—you can be sure of one thing... that Dale Chihuly is laughing all the way to the bank. 

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