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The Chihuly Explosion

by Mary Jasch

On the sixth floor of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden, world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly’s Fire Orange Baskets gleam center stage under the dome. They are transparent, rimmed and shot through with thin bands of almost-purple/black and cradle smaller versions of themselves.

In the Gallery next to them, Chihuly’s drawings on paper are hung above exquisitely liquid, slumped baskets, inspired by the graceful baskets of Northwest Coast Native Americans, and other organic shapes reminiscent of ocean dwellers. They are aptly called Seaforms and evolved from the fluid shapes of the baskets. Some delicately hold smaller pieces giving the effect of once-living tropical creatures floating in a crystalline sea.

A dusty-rose “sea shell” edged in aqua, perhaps two feet long, holds precious small glass “jewels of the sea.” Opalescent platters offer tiny etched versions begging to be hand-held.

My image of Dale Chihuly has changed since I last saw his work at NYBG in 2006. Then I was intrigued by icebergs in the Children’s Garden, but now I believe his most-magnificent works are, perhaps, in the Library, where Seaforms will make you drool and want them for your own.

On the fourth floor, Palazzo Ducale Tower appears like a white Christmas tree. It is one of 15 Chandeliers designed by Chihuly for his 1996 city-wide exhibition, Chihuly over Venice. Outdoors, large chunky blue glass of Blue Polyvitro Crystals embellish the library’s Fountain of Life and the Mertz Library’s commanding architecture.

Standing in the Palm Dome of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the largest Victorian-style glasshouse in the country, I am overwhelmed. The magnificent palms and tropicals embellished by Chihuly’s Blue Herons in the Persian Pond and Fiori and piped-in saxophone music do something to my heart, mind and soul. My emotions almost seep through my skin.

Chihuly’s art is everywhere through and outside the Conservatory, but after the Desert Gardens there it stood, gorgeous and glistening – the White Tower with Fiori, like a shining tree adorned with Valentine candy. Center stage, surrounded by soft-colored plantings enhancing its pink-bespeckled body and the delicate rose-colored glass baskets, it is regal and adored.

Down the hall, green and aqua glass cobras rise splendidly among Draceana fragrans ‘Limelight’ and dramatic royal blue slender cylinders from silvery yucca.

It was a completely awesome five hours my photographer and I spent just in the Library and Conservatory. We could have been there all day.

The art of Dale Chihuly is on exhibit through October 29. Don’t miss it! Run!

New York Botanical Garden: www.nybg.org
Dale Chihuly: www.chihuly.com/

**All works of art by Dale Chihuly
**Photos by Mary Jasch and Julian Sparacino

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