Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chihuly in the Desert

After almost a month in Arizona, I'm back in Virginia, cuddling with Ranunculus as the temperature drops below freezing. I haven't been outside much, although the garden is calling (well, screaming is more like it)--but after a long time away, and with the mercury falling and the new semester looming and a bad cold festering (I blame the drunk businessmen sneezing all the way from Atlanta), I haven't had much opportunity to garden or even to blog.

But like Rose--who is enduring much colder weather than I and with much less whining about it--I try to forget the wet and chill and take some comfort in the color of the desert--the Arizona desert, to be specific. Rose was there in early December, I was there over Christmas, but we both saw the absolutely phenomenal exhibit of Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures in the Desert Botanical Gardens in Papago Park near Phoenix. Rose has posted many of her photos, and the link above will take you to her posting on the exhibit.

Chihuly's most viewed piece is probably the spectacular glass flowers suspended from the ceiling of the hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas, and his work is shown in the Met in New York and in the Smithsonian in D.C. He has done garden exhibits at Kew Gardens in London and at botanical gardens in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and most recently at the Phipps in Pittsburg--just to name a few. The exhibit in Phoenix epitomizes his attempt to make the glass look "as if it comes from nature"; many of the sculptures seem to grow from the same earth as the cacti, succulents, and trees surrounding them.

The entrance to the gardens are hung with Chihuly's chandeliers--but even these most "artificial" pieces blend with their surroundings, both in form and color.

Still under the archways of the entry garden, "Green Hornets" seem to sprout among the cacti, including an "Old Man of Mexico" in the center.

The sculptures clearly don't pretend to be real, though sometimes it takes a second glance to realize they're not plants. But some are set almost ironically against their surroundings--like this "Blue and Purple Boat" grounded in the middle of the desert--

--or these "Blue Polyviro Crystals" floating in the Garden's "Desert Oasis":

But the works that struck me the most were the ones that seemed to grow out of the desert (and whose names are taken from plants), like these "Red Reeds and Black Saguaro."

This red and this black are not desert colors, but the forms echo natural ones, and the colors provide striking contrasts to the grays of ocotillo, pachycereus, and agave.

Here the tips of "Red Reeds" blend into the dark green landscape:

And here the vertical "Red Reeds" match the tall cactus behind them and provide a foil for the shorter, broader prickly pear:

"Blue Reeds, Marlins, and Floats" bring out the blue gray of the agave and set off the yellow green of the palo verdes.

My favorite was "Scorpion Tails and Bamboo," here stooping like the little cactus around it--

--and here sprouting almost like stalks from the prickly pear:

Chihuly does indoor "plants" as well--I THINK this is a flower, anyway (maybe it's a hat?)

As striking as they are, Chihuly's are not the only sculptures in the Gardens. This is a (relatively) permanent wood structure in the herb garden, called "St. Earth Walking."

Rosemary plants grow in hollows all over the sculpture.

And while it's not as beautiful as Chihuly's work, this little guy stole my heart. Maybe a donkey, maybe a horse--I think it's a watchdog, another Ranunculus protecting his garden.

I have more photos of the desert, and a whole lot of work to do in my Virginia garden--plenty of material for blogging, if only I can find the time. Happy 2009!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Skywatch: Sunset at the Desert Botanical Gardens

Happy Friday! I'm still enjoying time with family in Arizona, along with the fabulous sites. The Phoenix area is home to the beautiful Desert Botanical Museum, which exhibits both native and exotic (and often rare) desert plants. This holiday season, the museum has incorporated into its already stunning landscapes the glass sculptures of artist Dale Chihuly. Chihuly has arranged the sculptures so that they echo or contrast the plants around them. I'm still going through the hundreds of photos I took (Salix created a monster when he bought me that camera!), but here are a couple shots of some of the glassworks in the sunset that greeted us as we left the exhibit.

I have a few more precious days here--then I'll have more time for blogging. In the meantime, thanks to all of you for your kind comments--I hope your new year is off to a brilliant start!

Oops, almost forgot--here's the link to other contributions to Skywatch.