Glassy Surprises

Colorado Springs‘ Fine Arts Center had long been on my „must see“ list, and when it offered free visitation in March, I finally filled this glaring gap in my education. I wanted to explore at least two exhibits, one permanent, the other temporary, but otherwise had no preconceived notions. Incidentally, the museum will celebrate its centenary throughout this year, having originated as the Broadmoor Arts Academy in 1919.

Immediately upon entering the lobby, my attention was riveted by the Medusa-like light fixture featured above, but the title Chihuly Chandelier didn’t mean anything to me. Later, when I strolled into a darkened gallery highlighted and illuminated by an array of additional glass art, I learned about world-renowned (where have I been?) American glass artist, Dale Chihuly (born 1941), whose designs have dazzled viewers everywhere. They certainly dazzled me, and I became an instant fan. Additional research revealed that a 1976 accident resulted in blindness in the artist’s left eye. The associated loss of depth perception and a subsequent shoulder dislocation both affected his ability to blow glass, and forced him to limit himself to designing, rather than fashioning his art. According to a quote on Wikipedia, Chihuly describes his role as “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.”

The Persian Wall Installation was arranged by the artist in 2006 and emulates some of the oldest surviving ancient glasswork from the Persian Empire of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Concentric circles in contrasting colors captivate and charm.

Macchias are glass bowls characterized by spots (macchia is Italian for spot, from Latin macula). Countless color combinations make each one of these calyx-like structures unique, and assorted varieties resting on pedestals form so-called macchia forests.

The focal point of the room was the Orange Hornet Chandelier, composed of 384 pieces, which add up to a weight of 1200 pounds. In addition to hornets, it reminded me of ristras (from Latin restis, for rope or cord), decorative strings of red chili peppers popular in the American Southwest. The ponderous taper, first installed in Venice in 1993 as a smaller incarnation, had additional elements added specifically for the Fine Arts Center, to commemorate its 2007 reopening after a major expansion.

For the same occasion, the museum’s café was adorned with a third luster, the Gilded Blue Sapphire Chandelier, a cerulean dream with golden touches.

My outing reminded me that chance meetings are often the best. Encountering Chihuly’s creations was a wonderful surprise, and in this instance my ignorance was indeed my bliss.