I have a history with Dale Chihuly.
It began in Venice, my favorite city in the world. I had expected to dislike Venice. I have a severe mold allergy and imagined that a decaying, canal-laced, island would be no fun for me. I was so wrong. I arrived at sunset and stepped from the water taxi onto a bridge and was smitten with the light, the old buildings tilting into the canals, the romance of the gondolas, and the pealing of the church bells. And the romance! One of my favorite captured moments from that first trip was watching a couple rise from their table on Piazza San Marco, step onto the piazza and begin to waltz to the jazzy tune the small band was playing. They were not a young couple, both fairly tall, and were oblivious to those around them, having eyes only for one another. I promised myself I would return to Venice and I did a few years later. I was taking a sailing cruise around the Adriatic and the cruise embarked from Venice. On the ship I met a man and discovered he collected glass and had just been on Murano, a small island and glass making center near Venice. He shared that he was a collector of glass art made by Dale Chihuly. I was fascinated by his passion and wanted to know more about this artist.
As the universe often provides, upon return to Dayton I discovered that there would soon be an exhibition of Chihuly’s work at my home museum, the Dayton Art Institute. Chihuly himself would give a talk at the show’s opening. This talk is forever embedded in my mind. Chihuly was in a traffic accident and lost the use of one eye. As a consequence, he now does the sketches, paintings actually, for his art and due to his vision problem has artisans create the glass work. He had large scale exhibitions in Ireland, Israel, and… Venice. His slide presentation showed magnificent, chandelier-like pieces hung over the canals. How I wish I could have seen them in place! The most extraordinary part of the lecture was when he read from letters he wrote to his young son while traveling to mount the shows. He was a relatively new father and his young son would not understand the letters even if read aloud to him. But can you imagine how his son would later treasure this documentation as to how much his father loved him and wanted to share his life work with him?
I have one of the Chihuly paintings, a design for one of his Venice pieces. It is wildly free, well representative of the artist’s passionate nature and serves as a reminder for me to live full out, be fully present in each moment.
That exhibit was in 2002. This year the Dayton Art Institute had an exhibit of glass artists prominently featuring Chilhuly. I have followed his work, noted the progression of his designs, and have several books about his art that I enjoy perusing. This time I was able to introduce my son to Chihuly’s glass. He sees the painting every day but had not seen any of the glass. This was his favorite piece.
It was a well-curated show, including the works of many fine glass artists, but for me the Chihuly pieces were the anchor. What bliss to be with my friend and fellow creative Lori, and my much-loved son, in the midst of such glorious art. These experiences feed my soul, inspire my work, and increase my daily gratitude for my beautiful life.