Large, colorful, fanciful glass works now dot the lush landscape of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. The pieces are Dale Chihuly’s encore to his 2005 installation at the gardens.
For this year’s show — the largest-ever for the internationally renowned artist — thousands of pieces of glass were installed at 24 sites in, among and even hanging from trees and plants. Other pieces appear to float in ponds around the gardens.
"All I’m trying to do is make a beautiful object,” says Chihuly standing in front of a large, yellow and green piece called Sol Del Citron, created specifically for the Fairchild installation. The twisted glass tendrils, radiating out from a steel inner structure, look powerful and delicate at the same time, like a solar flare.
The tradition of glass and glasswork has long been associated with the craft world. Factories in places like Venice are famous for their fine glassware, like cups and vases — objects seldom displayed in art museums. One of Chihuly’s talents has been to take glass and move it over to the world of high art.
“I was able to, early on, have shows in museums and that got the attention of the art world,” says Chihuly, suggesting the scale of his work also contributed to spanning the divide between the two traditions.
One thing is certain: Chihuly’s work brings crowds. In 2005 — the time of Chihuly’s first set of installations — the Garden increased its attendance 250 percent.
Bruce Greer, a Chihuly fan and president of the Board of Trustees for Fairchild, says this work is even better than the last installation — more texture, sensitivity and nuance.
“Chihuly really underscores what we’re trying to do, which is show that art and science can come together and make education,” Greer says. “The art provides a vehicle, in essence. … So we're bringing people here who may want to see art and what’s happening is they’re finding out about the Million Orchid Program.”
The Million Orchid Program is one of several programs Fairchild runs aimed at teaching the community about native tropical flora and conserving the rarest and most vulnerable flora.
“I think the garden is at it’s all-time best,” says Greer. At 75 years old, “there’s no substitute for longevity, no substitute for continuity.”
Chihuly’s work and the garden are open to the public daily from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For a different experience of the work, the garden will also be offering a night pass, when the pieces will light up.
Chihuly’s work will be up through the end of May.