Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blown Glass. Blown Mind.

We are having the best time being tourists around Central VA in our very short time here. Even as we are making plans for an April weekend trip to DC for the cherry blossoms, we are starting to wrap it up here. We are waiting to hear where our next duty station will take us in May and should know something by the end of the month. I now feel a bit ridiculous for hanging pictures and unpacking every box. It seems that 6 months goes by much faster than anyone really realizes. But at least in photos, it will look more like a home and less like the bare apartment I lived in right out of college. We do, after all, make more money now. The big ass framed map over the couch is proof of that.

We hosted back-to-back visitors this month. Shana spent last weekend with us and we just returned home from putting Big Mama on a plane back to the bluegrass and bourbon. Big Mama was able to stay a bit longer because of the holiday weekend so we were able to squeeze a bit more in. Also, as luck would have it, Neal got a short reprieve from homework and was able to join in on nearly all of the activities that I, Julie the Cruise Director, had planned.

Friday night was a warm welcome, a chilled glass of wine, and dinner at Wabi of our favorite local spots downtown. Neal, Baby Blue, and I had eaten lunch there last month and we wanted to share the creamy love of WS. Bonus points for it being on Cockade Alley, which is both fun to say (considering I often answer to "Ally") and the filming location for some of Lincoln (which I loved and if you did not, please try not to steal my joy).

But Saturday was the real treat. The Virginia Museum of Fine Art (or "VMFA" if you are a local...or simply too lazy to spell it out) is currently hosting a special exhibit of blown glass by world-renowned artist, Dale Chihuly. Knowing nothing of his art, but being familiar with VMFA's reputation for hosting exhibits that also make the rounds in the MoMA and the Chicago Art Institute, I ordered 3 tickets over the phone. Admission to the museum is free for everyone, but tickets to special exhibits are $20 (except if you're active duty military...then everything is free. I'm lovin' it!).

The exhibit was really only about 6 rooms with 1 or 2 major installations in each, but one of them was a rowboat full of pieces and one was a glass ceiling where 1000+ pieces can be viewed from underneath. Wicked. And our lucky day...they allowed non-flash photography (which does strengthen the argument that people look at art instead of experiencing it, but now that I'm nearing 35, I've learned that if I don't photograph it, it basically never happened). Here are just a few photos from an exhibit that absolutely cannot be captured by any shutter speed.

Inspired by Japanese glass fishing boats, Chihuly began to wonder if his blown glass pieces would float in water. He started dropping pieces in the river nearby and children in the downstream village of Niijima began collecting them. And the rowboat installation was born. To give you some scale, the spheres on the floor next to the boat are 6' in diameter.

These are from the ceiling installation - meant to give the visitor the feeling of standing under the ocean. Nailed it.

Both installations in this room echo the artist's adoration for his native southwest culture. Born and raised in Tacoma, WA, he apparently amassed quite a collection of Navajo blankets. These influenced his art and he began painting the designs from these blankets onto his finished glass pieces, as you can see in the photo above.

My favorite of all of the rooms, there is a little something in here for everyone...sea anemones, balloon animals, and enormous balls that looks like the earth. I think you could sit here for days and still not really take it all in. It was at this point in the tour when I turned to Neal and said, "and the word for today is prolific."

It was in the room where these last 2 pictures were taken (which is titled something like "Spears" or "Spears in Logs"...I can't remember) when I said to Neal, "I love it. It's just so...dramatic." He then pointed to the text on the wall where Mr. Chihuly had indeed called this installation dramatic. Nailed it. Again.

Red Reeds is located outside, which is precisely the perfect location - especially on a crisp and bright January day like last Saturday. I'm not sure they could ever be appreciated inside, away from the complementary greens and yellows of live plants.

Poor old Mr. Chihuly now has a team of artisans working for him. He is no longer solely responsible for his art. In an early ironic twist of fate, he was in a head-on accident in 1976 and when he flew through the windshield, his face was severely damaged by glass and he was blinded in one eye (I mean, really...isn't that like a painter losing a few fingers on his dominant hand to a blender?). But he wasn't truly sidelined until a bodysurfing accident dislocated his shoulder. He now instructs his apprentices on creating his art. The benefit for us is there will be an entire team of artisans that can create Chihuly glass but will not be able to attach the name to it. So...affordable Chihuly, if you will.

If you are in the Richmond area, I can't emphasize enough how worthy this exhibit is. If not, keep an eye open for one coming near you. There are several installations that travel all over the country and I'm sure they are all mind-blowing glass-blowing.


  1. Gorgeous artwork!! You see a lot of this kind of glasswork in Venice. *fingers crossed* on an overseas assignment!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. That glass is AMAZING. It looks like under the sea or something....

  3. Excellent photos, Ally! Mmine were not nearly as good. You got thehugh scale.

  4. that looks amazing! I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been in person.

  5. OMG! These pictures are amazing!! I totally need to check out this installation. I love hand blown glass. Thanks for sharing :)


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