One of my favorite artists is Dale Chihuly. The foremost glass artist in the world, Chihuly has work in more than 200 museum collections, in addition to special exhibits every year. He’s moved the art of glass into grand-scale sculpture, constantly pushing the boundaries of form and location. Of course, one man can’t create all this himself – he has a team of master glassblowers whom he oversees, while he choreographs the art.
At the “A New Eden” exhibit last year at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we were amazed at these glories of glass. There were thousands of pieces of glass, in 15 different settings (both inside and out) over the 132-acre grounds of the Gardens. Located in water, boats, trees, paths, marshes, woodland areas, and inside the conservatory, the colorful glass drew the eye.
Chihuly designed “A New Eden” specifically to respond to the horticultural focus and natural conditions of each of the respective sites. The colors of nature – and the changing colors of the sky – were reflected in the glass, changing by the minute. Set as background for sculptures, or right in the middle of nature, the Chihuly glass melded right into the environment as if it had always been there.
My favorite was The Groves and Heckman Pond site. Suspended above the surface of Heckman Pond was “Blue Moon,” a starburst of clear white and blue glass. Floating in the water were approximately 50 onion-shaped “Walla Wallas,” and “Yellow Boat,” a wooden rowboat overflowing with an array of yellow, green, and black shapes.
While wandering the paved paths of Meijer Gardens, we were constantly awed by the colors popping out at us, the beauty of the glass, and how the sculptures integrated seamlessly with nature. Round a corner and there would be a beautiful Medusa-like fireball, reaching toward the sky. Head down a small path to find a giant rock candy swizzle stick leaning at a slight angle. It was the most impressive combination of art and nature I’ve ever seen.
About Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, called one of the world’s 30 “Must-See Museums” by Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, contains the largest tropical conservatory in Michigan; one of the U.S.’s biggest children’s gardens; arid and Victorian gardens featuring bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a house of carnivorous plants; and an outdoor amphitheater. The internationally acclaimed Sculpture Park includes a permanent collection with works by Rodin, Oldenburg, Moore, Bourgeois, and Plensa. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, Butterfield, di Suvero, and Calder.