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!

19 comments:

queenofseaford said...

Cosmo,
Welcome home. I am awed by these glass sculptures. I absolutely love the ceiling sculpture in the Belagio in Vegas. I look a good number of photos of that a few years ago. He is truly an artist with glass.
Janet

tina said...

What a lovely tour. You and Rose have done an awesome job of bringing the beautiful sculptures to us who were not lucky enough to see it. It is fabulous! Hope you get to feeling better soonest.

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Cosmo,

I must tell you that after reading your previous post (and Rose's post) about Chihuly, the Musician and I actually looked at the cost of flying out to AZ to see the gardens!

We decided that the trip was a bit too much for right now, so I thank you for your additional photos.

Cameron

Jamie and Randy said...

What and absolutely beautiful way to bring color to the garden! I'm still learning how to fill the garden with intersting objects,it is most definitely a talent.--Randy

Rose said...

What a wonderful post, Cosmo, and thanks for the link love! It's always interesting to see the same place from a different perspective--you have photos of a few pieces I missed, like the "Blue and Purple Boat" and the blue crystals. And I'm so glad you remembered the names of several I neglected to write down.

I'm not very knowledgeable about art, but you have voiced my thoughts exactly (and said it much better!) about what makes this exhibit so unique. I originally thought all these pieces were created just for the DBG, because they fit in so well with the landscape. Those "Mirrored Hornets" are the perfect example.

I also missed "St. Earth Walking"--I think I was entranced by the plants at that time. I hope you are feeling better soon. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your adventures in Arizona.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Just amazing, no words can describe exhibits in Wisconsin at one of the botanical gardens. I hope to visit and see it in person.
Marnie

Lisa said...

Ooh cool. I caught the exhibit at the Phipps last February & it's surreal seeing those pieces in the Arizona landscape. Beautiful post!
(see you at lunch tomorrow)

Gail said...

I love his work...he studied the gardens well before he created the pieces...what intrigues me is imagining the installation. Goodness there are some very sharp spines they were working around!

Welcome home...sorry it's to cold weather and an arctic blast in a few days. Keep warm. Thank you for the gorgeous look at his work.

Gail

Les said...

I have admired Chihuly's work for many years, unfortunately I have only seen pieces here and there, not a beautiful installation like what you experienced. I did once recognize several of his works in a client's home and hoped that I impressed her by knowing who the artist was. I understand that she now has added one of his enormous chandeliers to her living room. My favorites are the ones that look like sea creatures.

Thanks for sharing your pictures, and I hope you get over the cold soon (there is no place easier to get sick than on a plane).

Skeeter said...

Like you, I have been off the blogging circuit for over a month. Posting but not checking in with others. Playing catch up the past two days. Wow, did I miss a lot while away!

Beautiful glass art mixed in with nature!

The palm trees in the skyline were an awesome sight!

The buzzards a bit icky but hey, they have a place on this fine earth also.

Glad you were able to spend some time golfing with your mom! Hope you are feeling better by now and Happy New Year!

The Organic Gardener said...

Those are fascinating! Man I wish I had that kind of talent!

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Welcome back to VA, Cosmos!
I'm so glad you've been able to share these photos with your blogging friends and fans:) I've never seen these sculptures in a garden (desert) before. I live close to the Smithsonian so I must get up there to check out Chihuly's sculpture/work displayed there. Take care. Jan

Aiyana said...

I've been back twice to see the Chihuly exhibit. I will go one more time (or maybe two.) I think it's one of the best exhibits DBG has had to date, and I try to make each one. You have beautiful photos!
Aiyana

Sarah Laurence said...

Cosmo, welcome home! I was wondering where you were. Aren’t you lucky to visit Arizona during this cold month. I enjoyed the desert botanical garden shots on Rose’s blog and on yours. It’s fun to get the dual perspective. I now doubly want to visit it.

Phillip M said...

Beautiful photos! I saw a similar show at the New York Botanical Garden a couple of years ago. I'm pretty sure it had some of the same pieces. Let's get together some time and make some rip-offs for your yard. I think we can use balloons...

Jeff said...

Great pics, Cosmo - looks like a wonderful trip. I saw the Chihuly installation at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh two years ago and was amazed. I came home with a plan to do a "knock-off" in my front bed, but so far it's only resulted in a case of blue glass bottles from Trader Joe's and some expensive copper pipe in a corner of the garage (never could manage to cut the stuff!). One day, when I have more time...

Kylee said...

Hi Cosmo! Love the Chihuly! I saw Rose's post about it, too. I'm a huge fan of his works and they just look fabulous there in the desert. Wish I could see it myself, but this was the next best thing! Thank you both!

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tina said...

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