This summer there is a large exhibition of the glass art of Dale Chihuly at the Atlanta Botanic Garden. The Garden is part of Piedmont Park, the Central Park of Atlanta, and only a fifteen minute walk from my hotel. The Garden is very different from Chicago and Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia. There is much more emphasis on the natural landscape and less on formal beds of flowers. The Atlanta Garden is also very hilly, with valleys and glens and mature trees.
The first piece you encounter as you enter the Garden is the "Indigo Blue Icicle Tower," standing about nine feet tall. Each of the icicles started out as a bubble of molten glass which was gradually expanded by blowing, and then pulled out into an "icicle" with an iron tongs pinching and pulling on the molten glass. The Tower is made of hundreds of "icicles" which are attached to a steel armature with many brackets in the center.
Close-up of "Indigo Blue Icicle Tower." Chihuly works in a large studio in Seattle, WA. Glass blowing by its nature is a group endeavor, since one person cannot do all the activities alone. For this piece there was a glass blower, an assistant to hold the end of the blowpipe as the glass piece got larger and heavier, an artist to pull out the glass into an icicle, someone with a blowtorch to keep the glass hot as it was being worked, someone to break it off the blowpipe and carry it to the annealing oven so it could be brought down to room temperature slowly - otherwise you end up with crackled glass, etc. Many people are involved in the making of each piece.
I didn't know what kind of flowers to expect in Atlanta. It turned out that the two most popular plants were crepe myrtles, which were blooming all over town in white, pink, and hot raspberry colors, and hydrangeas. Hydrangeas must be the state flower; they were growing everyplace in more colors than I have ever seen before, and in many varieties. They seem to be an ideal flower for a very warm climate. Here are mixed bushes of pale blue, medium blue, lavender, and white hydrangeas.
Hydrangea flower heads of many shades. They will bloom all summer.
Beautiful Delft Blue Hydrangeas
"Fern Dell Paint Brushes"
This is an example of how Chihuly worked to fit his sculptures into the natural environment. This is the "Fern Dell," part of the "Southeastern Garden" part of the gardens. The fountain was already there, and Chihuly now added his "Paint Brushes" of yellow with red tips. It was a marvelous sight to suddenly appear in the dell, blazing with color in the sunlight.
"Fern Dell Paintbrushes"
In this case, the "rods" were made of yellow glass and pulled out and then allowed to drop from a high platform by gravity and lastly, after heating the glass rod so it would be the same temperature, the molten red glass for the tips was added and shaped.
I took this photo from high above the ground and then later walked down and saw it
at ground level. There is a deep valley in the gardens. and they have constructed
a "Canopy Path" supported by steel cables above the tree tops down in the valley.
So you have wonderful panoramic and aerial views of some of the installations and also
of the forest and paths. This installation is entitled "Green Hornets and Waterdrops
with Neodymium Reeds."
"Green Hornets and Waterdrops with Neodymium Reeds"
Chihuly likes to find old iron die-forms in abandoned factories. They were once used for other purposes, but Chihuly now uses them as molds for blown glass. The "hornets" were made by blowing a glass bubble into an old iron form, which gives them their unique shape.
The "waterdrops" are incredibly difficult pieces to blow with the enlarged tip.
"Neodymium" is a rare earth mineral which colors glass purple. The reeds form
a backdrop here to hornets and waterdrops and fit into the forest environment.
When I followed the winding path, I eventually came to the forest floor, and there
I could look at the "Hornets and Waterdrops" up close.
Meanwhile, far above the installation, hangs the "Chartreuse Hornet." You can
see here the "Canopy Walkway" high above the trees and ground.
The "Chartreuse Hornet" is made of polyvitro, a new plastic invented by Chihuly and some chemists. It has many of the qualities of glass, but it weighs much less so it offers many possibilities.
Continuing along the "Canopy Walkway" between tall trees, you begin to get glimpses of "Red Reeds." There were several bunches, almost like teepees, scattered on the forest floor below.
Two of the "Red Reeds" There were perhaps six in all. Mysterious.
They seem close because I was using a telephoto lens; they were actually quite far below.
And then you made a bend on the "Canopy Walkway" and far in the distance, between
tall trees, appeared the "Saffron Tower." This is made completely of neon-tubing
and was lighted at night in a spectacular display.
"Saffron Tower" of neon glass tubing.
There were many flowers growing around the Tower in the "Glade Garden."
One of the most prolific was this Blue Rose of Sharon. There were many of
these bushes/small trees in the Glade. They are a beautiful French blue.
There were also many "Pink Coneflowers" around the Tower.
Another common flower in the Garden, and appearing in many different colors,
was Phlox. Here is a large head of beautiful pale lavender phlox.
As you followed the path, you descended further into the valley, and then around a bend,
suddenly you saw the "White Belugas." Chihuly has been using these large bulbous
white forms for several years, but until now, they have been kind of a milky-white. In Atlanta,
the one on the left, as you can see, is a pure snow white, and I think it works much better.
The forms are also slightly less bulbous, although certainly full and blown out.
I liked them much better this time.
"White Belugas." Notice how they echo the shape of the agaves and other plants growing nearby.
These are "Snowflake Hydrangeas," quite different in shape and size from the usual hydrangeas. They look almost like clusters of grapes. Their botanical name is Hydrangea quercifolia.
The path now led around the restaurant and toward the Children's Garden. This large
flower head of pink and rose phlox was part of a bed beside the building.
A beautiful large flower head of white phlox; it is perhaps ten inches across.
You cross over a bridge to enter the "Children's Garden," and high above the bridge stretches
this iron armature to support vines (usually). But this summer, it supported Chihuly's
"Trumpet Flower Arbor," a sculpture made of dozens of platter forms in many colors
and resembling trumpet flowers. The best view of it was obtained by lying flat
on the ground and looking up, as all the good photographers did. : - )
The trumpet flower forms are all attached to a steel armature with many brackets.
Each trumpet flower is a different shape and color. It was a wonderful piece.
The largest of the installations is this - "Fiori Boat and Nijima Floats."
It is very complex and consists of many parts, as you can see. There is a waterfall, three ponds, the "Earth Goddess" figure, the "Fiori Boat" and the "Floats." The "Earth Goddess" is made up on a steel armature underneath (weighing 67 tons and coming from Montreal), which is covered with chicken wire and bags of dirt, which are pierced and little plants are stuck in each hole. The female figure and her colorful hair are made of six different groundcover plants, which are described on a sign. Her hand also is a waterfall. The boat is a typical Japanese fishing boat which is filled with the glass forms Chihuly calls "Fiori / Flowers." There are hundreds of them.
Waterfall, two ponds, "Fiori Boat", Earth Godess mosaiculture, and Nijima Floats.
There are hundreds of fiori forms in the boat. Chihuly usually has one or two boats in each exhibition, but each time they are filled with different glass forms. This particular one
is all brand new and made just for this show.
The "Nijima Floats" are based on the small glass or plastic balls Japanese fisherman use
to hold up their nets as they fish. These colorful glass floats are the largest balls of glass
which have ever been blown. Remember, each of them was a bubble on the end of a blow pipe.
You can imagine how heavy they are, and several assistants are needed to help support
the molten bubble and keep rotating it so that it stays even. They were incredibly difficult
The path now wandered through beds of these deep rose hydrangeas.
Pastel colored hydrangeas were all over; these are pale lavender.
One of the restaurants and a gift shop were in this semi-circular building. In the center
is the fountain which was surmounted by Chihuly's "The Three Graces" made up
of a number of amber-colored forms which he calls "Persians."
"The Three Graces" fountain with "Persian" forms.
Inside the gallery were a number of smaller Chihuly pieces, which were for sale, and also
some of his drawings and paintings and many different books. This beautiful form
is one of his "Macchia" bowls. The price was $8,100.
These were the "White Forms with Turquoise Lips."
To make this, a glass blower blows the bubble and gradually expands it with additional gathers of molten glass. When it is large enough, another glass maker takes a small gather of molten glass from the oven on the end of a steel rod called a puntee. The first blower is meanwhile continually spinning the glass ball so it stays symmetrical. The second worked now touched the hot glass to the hot bubble and rotates it at the same speed. As the glass cools, it hardens. When both artists believe it is ready, another worked takes a file / rasp and runs a but around the neck of the bubble by the blowpipe and then taps the pipe and the bubble breaks off and is now attached to the puntee. The second glass maker now works the piece while a third worker uses iron tongs to bend the shape, and another worked drapes the yellow glass along the rim. It takes many glass artists working together to make a piece like this.
"Red Nesting Bowls."