Blown glass is magical. I’m not a person who spends a lot of time with my memories, but I have fond ones of a visit to the Corning Glass Museum when I was a child. So when we went up to Montreal recently to visit our daughter, a visit to the Chihuly exhibit currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts was in order.
I was very happy that I was allowed to take pictures. I only had my cellphone camera, however, so the quality of these photos is not the greatest. Some colors are hard to photograph in any circumstances (I’m talking to you, bright red), and if what you are trying to photograph is also shiny... there were many wonderful objects that I didn’t even try to capture.
The magic starts at the front of the museum.
The museum is showing a short stop-motion video of this piece being assembled. Wonderful!
You walk, walk, walk from the entrance in the modern part of the museum complex, under the street, up the most unnerving stairs I know (very wide steps with a very shallow rise), then up a very noble, old stair case to enter the exhibit. The ticket taker was right at the top of the last set of steps and I felt an uneasy vertigo at the top, trying to get onto solid ground as my eyes were drawn to this:
Old and new, rough and smooth, organic and synthetic. Keep this scale in mind. The entire exhibit has this outsized quality.
Next up was a room full of these these wonderful, enormous, organic bowl shapes.
It took a few minutes to realize the improbability of these pieces. Glass shapes with one color on the inside and another color on the outside, and the colors remained pure even with lights shining through the shapes. These pieces are made in 3 layers, with a layer of white glass in the middle. The white glass prevents a blue interior from showing through a red exterior. They all have a lovely smooth beaded edge of yet another color as well.
Neon like you’ve never seen it.
There was a polished dark floor and mirrors skillfully placed beyond the glowing forms, and space unfolded into a breath of infinity.
Then there were floats in boats.
Those large balls are LARGE. The room had many of the float balls scattered across a polished floor, and another boat filled with a jumble of shapes and colors.
From there, we visited Chihuly’s garden.
The objective was to create the feeling of a garden at the height of summer, riotous with bloom and a bit wild.
We moved into a room of five fantastical chandeliers. Only one of them came close to being able to be photographed with my camera.
The scale was massive, and this was the small chandelier.
Finally, a rather intimate experience - a clear glass ceiling lies below an assortment of classic Chihuly shapes and colors. There are beanbags on the floor so that you can lie down, relax, and look, and look some more. The rich colors of the glass were reflected on the wall, adding to a marvelous effect.
Bonus points if you can find the manta ray.
The rest of the visit was also a treat. There was good food, good beer, a competitive board game, some knitting, and playing with Oz, a new kitten in the family. We boarded the dog this time, and enjoyed not having to control a dog who does not enjoy city life. A word of warning to smugglers bearers of gifts: Canadian customs seems to be cracking down on the importation of items purchased in the USA. We were bringing birthday gifts and a few things our daughter had purchased for herself, and had to pay duty. The rules: make sure you have receipts with you, and be prepared to pay a duty on any item costing more than $60. As I told the customs officer, “it makes it hard to be a doting parent.” She just smiled.