Dale Chihuly is one of those artists who’s a little too popular to be cool, the Tiffany of our time. But his work is stunning in its scale and originality, and it particularly shines when it’s exhibited in a biological context, as it was in the summer of 2006 at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where I took these photos on film with my lovely Konica Hexar camera. The red spikes of glass shown above are planted around the magnificent Victorian glasshouse known as the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Inside the dome, a tower of blue and yellow curlicues becomes even more vertically imposing by rising from a reflecting pool:
These giant constructions are made by wiring hundreds of twisty pieces of blown glass onto a hidden steel frame. Observe how these forms harmonize with the botanical forms around them. Chihuly’s methods of glass blowing work with the natural dynamic of taffylike molten silica infused with human breath. The process is organic rather than mechanical, and so the resulting forms are full of life.
Here is a curlier variant of the planted rods shown at the top of this post, with forms reminiscent of orchids or cobras:
A lotus pond is a perfect place for this explosion of violet tumescence:
Or for these crystal flamingo flowers:
Or this buoyant glass onion:
The actual biological forms start to look strangely Chihulian, as though they’re infused with breath like blown glass:
Breath is synonymous with spirit, or lifeforce, in many ancient languages: spiritus, pneuma, ruach, ruh, atman. I went to the Botanical Garden to photograph the Chihuly pieces, but found the botanical forms compelling in exactly the same way:
Back to the Chihuly works, here’s another tower of glass, this time with a more mineral character:
This sphere of writhing yellowness I think is entitled “The Sun”:
This is alchemy: from the most commonplace starting material – glass is made from sand – Chihuly produces forms that embody beauty and power.
And to conclude, back to the biological manifestations, first the startling red of fallen crabapples:
And finally the green of algae growing in a puddle atop a boulder, a beautiful demonstration of the determination of life to burst forth anywhere and everywhere possible:
All of the photos in this post were taken on the same day in 2006, at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, New York.