The Mesopatamian in 2500 B.C. who discovered that superheated sand could be used to create a transparent material and shaped into a vessel must have been the ultimate innovator — though the name of the inventor of glass remains unknown.
Some 4,500 years later, Dale Chihuly — who was honored in March 2006 at Palm Springs Art Museum’s Artists and Legends Gala — enjoys worldwide fame for his innovative use of the material to create wildly imaginative, elegant, and complex artworks. He exhibits new works periodically at Imago Galleries in Palm Desert.
Imago owners Leisa and David Austin have grown close to Chihuly and have represented him in the Coachella Valley since they opened their first gallery in Palm Springs 14 years ago. In fact, their first exhibition was devoted to Chihuly’s work and their Palm Desert gallery, which opened six years ago, was specifically designed with a second-story corner window to showcase one of the glass master’s chandeliers.
The current exhibition marks the first local showing of Chihuly’s series titled Mille Fiori (Italian for “thousand flowers”). The installation comprises steel platforms “planted” with glass flowers, gourds, reeds, and other vegetation. Mother Nature herself would be hard-pressed to improve upon the color spectrum Chihuly employs. His sense of transparency and opacity, depth, and luminosity reveal an understanding of how light transforms our perceptions of shape.
Chihuly has long exhibited an affinity for the natural environment, whether it be in the organic forms that mark his work or in the places he selects to place them. His first installation at the Pilchuck Glass School he founded near Seattle, Wash., was a series of floats he sailed in a pond behind the glass shop. His later installations have graced other waterways and botanical gardens, most recently the Kew Gardens near London last spring. There, he designed a panorama of large-scale, organic-shaped glass to respond to the plants, trees, and sweeping vistas of the 300-acre property.
Dale Chihuly shows at Imago Galleries
This article was originally published April, 2006 and updated for the web June, 2007.