Dale Chihuly’s name has become synonymous with the art of blown glass. Glass is also typically synonymous with another word: Fragile. Although Colorado is one of the most hail-prone states in the country, that hasn’t stopped Denver Botanic Gardens from hosting a monumental sculpture show of glass.
Mother Nature was quick to test Chihuly’s sinuous, spindly glass masterpieces in Denver. It hailed and “rained sideways” during the 11-day June installation of Chihuly, recalled Britt Cornett, Chihuly Studio head of exhibitions.
“The glass is surprisingly hardy,” Cornett said.
While this version of Chihuly’s Garden Cycle is the first outdoor display of his work in the Mile High City, it has faced the elements at 12 other outdoor venues. A handful of works were damaged in 2012 in Dallas, Texas.
“Windshields were being shattered from cars and there was a lot of damage,” Cornett said. “And in that incident we lost six forms throughout thousands, and thousands, and thousands.”
Chihuly’s work shattered ideas that fine art and glass were incongruous. His techniques - brazen use of color, bodacious shapes, and outlandish size – refined over his 40-year career have elevated glass to fine art status. His work appears in more than 200 museum collections worldwide.
While blown glass has been Chihuly's medium of distinction, he also works with a plastic he invented called Polyvitro, neon, paint and paper, all of which can be seen at Botanic.
The sculptures are staged throughout the gardens, in and around the flora and water elements. Some works, such as the green, gold, and black, Perennial Fiori appear to be extensions of the plants and flowers. A fiery looking piece titled Summer Sun, is a vibrant contrast to the typically crisp blue Colorado sky.
Blue Icicle Towers, which greets visitors as they enter, was created for specifically for Denver. Although the majority of the other sculptures have been installed elsewhere, the configurations for this Garden Cycle will not be repeated.
“I do feel like the impression for many, many people is that it completely fits here,” said Kim Manajek Associate Director of Exhibits at Denver Botanic Gardens, which has hosted an annual sculpture show since 2006. “It feels like it’s a natural thing but it’s also a natural thing that takes your breath away. So, it’s pretty fantastic.”
The exhibit is open in the garden through Nov. 30. Entrance comes with the price of admission to the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, RMPBS, and KUVO