Dale Chihuly (born 1941) is what is called a glass sculptor. His life has been as colorful as his art, in various ways. Born and raised in the Pacific northwest (he now is based in Tacoma) he began pursuing a degree in interior design, but he dropped out and went to Florence to study art in 1962. He returned to school and finished an interior design degree at the U. of Washington in 1965. That same year he began experimenting with glass blowing, and the rest, as they say, is history, though it would be a good while before his work became well known, even famous. The very first glass-blowing program and degree appeared at the U. of Wisconsin in 1966, and Chihuly was awarded one of the first scholarships into the program. A key turning point in his career came when he went to Venice and studied some of the fine techniques in glass blowing at the Murano glass enterprise, where one finds perhaps some of the most famous workers with glass in the past five or more centuries.
One of the sadder moments in his life came in 1976 while he was in England. He was in a terrible car crash in which he was thrown through the car window, which not only lacerated his face, but ruined one of his eyes, so when you see pictures of him, he appears to be a rather daunting looking pirate with an eye patch. In 1979 he had a further accident, this one from body-surfing in the ocean which caused him to dislocate his shoulder, and he was no longer able to hold the glass blowing pipe steady enough. He therefore became a director and choreographer of glass-blowing, working with a team. The creations that he dreamed up and directed the production of began to show up all over the world, to huge acclaim, not to mention he is now worth many millions. He is not the stereotypical ‘starving artist’. He likes doing ‘environmental’ art which is to say outdoor art that fits into a particular landscape.
Ann and I recently learned there was an exhibit of seven new Chihuly’s at Maker’s Mark Distillery, and hour down the road in Loretto Kentucky. Labor Day was a gorgeous Fall day here, and so we went for the ride….. and boy was it worth it, as you shall see.
The most spectacular of all the exhibits however is the Chihuly glass ceiling in one of the bourbon warehouses where Ann and I not only took lots of shots, but got our picture taken as well.