The whimsical and colorful glass creations of artist Dale Chihuly are often grand-scale sculptures that seem to spring from the pages of an abstract fairy tale. There are rainbow-striped massive orbs, towering spikes and fantastical swirling creations.
Chihuly installations have been exhibited all over the U.S., from Atlanta and Denver to Nashville and Seattle. His work has been displayed outside the country in places as diverse as Venice, Montreal and Jerusalem. Currently 32 of his colorful installations are part of a six-month exhibition of his work at Kew Gardens in London.
Many of Chihuly's installations are placed at botanical gardens, like the Atlanta Botanical Garden, above. It's often an interesting juxtaposition as the fanciful, mythical works somehow don't seem out of place among the manicured beds and lovely water features.
Richard Deverell, Kew’s director in London, told The Guardian one goal was to attract people who would not have thought of visiting a botanic garden.
“It worked," he said. "More than 900,000 people visited, we had to extend it due to popular demand. At the time it was the most popular exhibition that Kew had ever mounted and back then I always felt we would see Dale’s work return to Kew."
Although Chihuly is known for his glass work, he started his art career with weaving. He experimented by weaving glass shards into woven tapestries, which eventually led him into blowing glass. He combined that interest with a fascination with architecture.
According to the official Chihuly website, "Dale has always been interested in architecture and the way form interacts with light and space. His installations are created in dialogue with the spaces in which they are sited, interacting harmoniously with interior and exterior spaces and often creating emotional experiences."
But not all his work can be found in gardens and museums.
Many tourists every day see one of Chihuly's most colorful works — the ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel, above, in Las Vegas is comprised of 2,000 glass blossoms by the artist.
Chihuly's work is carried by several galleries and is part of more than 200 museum collections around the world.
Chihuly lost vision in his left eye in 1976 after a car crash. Other injuries left him unable to blow glass himself many years ago, reports PBS. He now employs a team of 100 craftspeople, designers, marketers and other staff members.
He told Seattle art critic Regina Hackett, "Once I stepped back, I enjoyed the view," saying he could then see work from more angles and anticipate problems more clearly.
There's just some fascination with glass ... whether it's working with it or owning it, Chihuly muses on his website.
"Why do people want to collect glass? Why do they love glass? For the same reason, I suppose, that many of us want to work with it," he says.
"It is this magical material that’s made with human breath, that light goes through, and that has incredible color. And I think the fact that it breaks is one of the reasons that people want to own it. Isn’t it unbelievable that the most fragile material, glass, is also the most permanent material?"