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Glass in the Garden…Chihuly, that is.

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Nov. 17, 2008 at 9:52 am with No Comments »
November 17, 2008 9:52 am

I went along Saturday night to the Metro Parks gala in the Seymour Conservatory, where Tacoma’s high-fliers were celebrating yet another Dale Chihuly addition to Tacoma, albeit a temporary one. The Tacoma-native glass celebrity has lent Metro Parks enough of his glass collection (252 pieces, actually) to fill the Victorian glasshouse for an exhibition to commemorate the conservatory’s 100th birthday. It’s part of a now-ongoing program to put glass in the historical Wright Park edifice.

You can read more about the details in C.R. Roberts’ fine story this morning.

And ya know what? Even to this jaded Chihuly observer, it’s gorgeous. Not because of any originality in the work (such as we saw during the last glass show, “Skyponds,” by Joe Miller and Oliver Doriss.) No, it’s because Chihuly’s personal signature of over-the-top sensual, glossy curviness suits these tropical plants down to the–er–ground.

Wide petalled lilies are paired with giant banana leaves. Pointy icicles of green glass emerge like sharp fronds from the base of a palm. An enormous lime glass flower, some two feet wide, balances the equally-oversized yellow dahlias, and six-fingered, space-age-shaped splodges in aqua and indigo schlurp upwards like the monstrous leaves of the ceiling-high tree philodendron.

Not everything fits: the orange floats are ridiculously huge for the dainty water feature. (The koi are probably freaked out by this object taking up half their living space.) The Venetians set here and there on pedestals look arbitrary–“Okay, what’ll we put here? Oh yeah, this’ll do, it’s at the top of the pile.”

But in general, Chihuly in the garden is a perfect fit, as the 860,000 visitors realized during his similar show at London’s Kew Gardens glasshouse in 2005. The story goes that the glassmaker fondly remembers visits to the conservatory with his mom as a child–you can just imagine the eight-year-old Dale staring up at the enormous exotic flora, imagination forever kindled.

Apparently the maestro will be at the Seymour Conservatory himself tomorrow at around 12:30p.m., so if you’re an adoring fan, that’s a good time to go. The glass also looks stupendous lit up at night (as I found out Saturday) so one of the next three ArtWalk evenings (Dec. 18, Jan. 5 and Feb. 19), when the Conservatory will be open til 8 p.m. and free to boot, would also be great.

Otherwise, you can see “Chihuly at Seymour 100″ 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Feb. 22. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.) Apart from ArtWalk evenings, there’s a suggested donation of $5–and considering the cost to upkeep this beautiful Victorian treasure (which is usually free anyhow), and the extra staffing Chihuly glass requires, that’s well worth it.

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