News and Features

Exploding Glass at the Arboretum


The Dallas Arboretum is currently embroiled in a dispute with White Rock Lake residents over plans for more parking. One reason the Arboretum wants more parking is its show opening this weekend. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports the glassworks by popular artist Dale Chihuly are the first major art exhibition the Arboretum has hosted.

KERA radio story on the parking lot dispute:

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KERA radio story on Chihuly exhibition:

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Expanded online story:

The open-air exhibition by the Seattle-based artist features 15 installations, an assortment of older and newer glassworks. Throughout the Arboretum’s 66 acres of gardens and ponds, there are the brightly-colored swirls Chihuly is known for, plus towering sprays of flowers and shining spheres lolling on the water. These were inspired by the floats of Japanese fishing nets that Chihuly used to see washed up on Washington beaches.

When asked about any concern for all this hand-blown glass exposed to Texas weather, Chihuly said it’s surprisingly hardy.


Team Chihuly assembling the 1,220 pieces of ‘The Sun’ at the Arboretum

Chihuly: “This is the 11th show that I have done in a garden in the last 10 years. We’ve never dealt with golf-ball-sized hail. [laughter] That’s the only thing that I’m worried about.”

In the ‘80s, Chihuly helped galvanize American glass-blowing, importing techniques from Italy and Japan and establishing his Pilchuck School in Washington. His work is in some 200 museums worldwide, including, of course, the “hats” in window of the Dallas Museum of Art Cafe and the largest permanent exhibition of Chihuly’s glass works anywhere  — at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Right now in North Texas, there are twelve galleries with related glass art shows running through June (Dallas’ Talley Dunn Gallery represents Chihuly here). He’s so popular now he has retail stores, one in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, another in the MGM Grand Casino in Macao, China.

Chihuly: “And Seattle now has more glass-blowers than there are in Venice, Italy.”

Chihuly’s assistants first surveyed the Arboretum and sent him what one called a “storyboard” of the gardens and trails, so he could plan the artworks’ placement. It took five, 53-foot shipping containers to send the entire exhibition from Washington to Texas. A team of 10 assistants then spent the past two weeks installing everything.

One of Chihuly’s signature works at the Arboretum is “The Sun” (above). It’s a 15-foot-tall explosion of yellow and orange that’s been on display in San Francisco’s Legion of Honor and in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. At its heart is a metal ball-armature covered with spikes. On these, hundreds of twisted glass tubes are wired.

Britt Cornett is head of exhibitions for Chihuly.

Cornett: “There are hundreds! There are hundreds and hundreds. There’s about well over 1200 pieces in the sculpture. There’s a variety of colors, predominantly yellow goosenecks, a lot of horn shapes which are curling, you know very organic shapes. It’s actually very beautiful, if I can say that.”

With a six-month run set through November, the Chihuly exhibition is expected to draw thousands from throughout the Southwest – adding to the more than 600,000 people who visited the Arboretum last year.

  • Wanda

    I thought I saw on the news last night that they had a show of these in Hurst. Can someone tell me where we could see these over the weekend other than the Arboretum. They are so interesting I would love to see them up close and personal. I like a lot.

  • http://www.marthatiller.com/ Mtiller

    How exciting to see the talented artists and art supporters in Dallas come together in support of this special art form and in celebration of the Arboretum’s world class Chihuly exhibit. Thank you, Jerome for capturing it all for us.

  • http://www.marthatiller.com/ Mtiller

    How exciting to see the talented artists and art supporters in Dallas come together in support of this special art form and in celebration of the Arboretum’s world class Chihuly exhibit. Thank you, Jerome for capturing it all for us.