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Chihuly glass art on exhibit at Denver Botanic Gardens

Blue and purple Chihuly glass fills a fishing boat afloat in Denver Botanic Gardens.
Blue and purple Chihuly glass fills a fishing boat afloat in Denver Botanic Gardens.
Photo by Colleen Smith for Friday Jones Publishing

Denver Botanic Gardens officially opens its summer blockbuster “Chihuly” tomorrow, June 14. All the art by Dale Chihuly and his team is installed, and thanks to the gorgeous glass and generous spring rains, the gardens have never looked better.

Chihuly’s glass in the gardens creates an otherworldly, sometimes eerie landscape, as if extraterrestrials tossed a handful of seeds out of their spaceship. The glass art draws inspiration from nature and looks at home in nature.

Chihuly’s glass glimmers in the bright Colorado sunshine. A gleaming blue agave-like sculpture welcomes visitors. Nearby, an enormous, otherworldly flower of juicy orange glass stands near the amphitheater. Glass Reeds of red and blue and lime green sprout from the landscape. Yellow and black glass snake-like shapes sparkle along the O’Fallon Perennial Walk.

And perhaps most dazzling of all are the glass artworks installed in water. Chihuly made the most of the many water features in Denver Botanic Gardens. The Denver exhibit features boatloads, literally, of glass pieces. The colorful orbs floating in the Monet Lily Pond or the fishing boat filled with cobalt blue glass shapes or the individual pieces of glass reflect beautifully in the water, some of which is dyed black for optimum optical effect. White-striped jellyfish shapes mingle near a waterfall. A tower of chunky, pool-blue glass appears almost like otherworldly ice cubes.
“Denver Botanic Gardens’ show is the first large-scale exhibition in the Rocky Mountain region,” said Lisa Eldred, Director of Exhibitions, Art and Interpretation at Denver Botanic Gardens.

For the last 40 years, Chihuly has stretched the possibilities for glass art much the way he might stretch a bit of hot glass. And like a glass blower puffing life into blown glass, Chihuly lives and breathes his art. His intention to insert his art into nature results in a delightful vision.

The candy-colored glass is happy. And the juxtaposition of glass—which we tend to think of as fragile—in Colorado’s elements strikes the fancy. Tucked into grassy plains or afloat on the lily pond or towering over walkways, Chihuly’s glass appears nothing short of joyful magic.

The show runs through November 30. Despite Colorado’s notoriously extreme elements ranging from scorching sun to hailstorms and autumnal blizzards, except for a small installation in the main building, all the Chihuly glass is installed outside. “Glass is remarkably strong and stable,” said Eldred. “These works are created for outdoor installation.”

Chihuly at Denver Botanic Gardens will delight visitors of all ages. The gift shop is well stocked with Chihyly chotzkes, books, mugs and more. Additionally, from Chihuly’s studio, the gift shop is selling fine art, both glass art and drawings from Chihuly’s studio.

Be sure to catch the documentary film looping in a small gallery near the conservatory and café. In the film, Chihyly noted that he was raised in a modest house in an average neighborhood, but that his mother was a terrific gardener. The artist credits the flowers in his mother’s garden as an early influence upon his art.

Prior to the Denver show, Chihuly and his team installed outdoor glass art throughout the U.S. and the world, including exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Coral Gables, Las Vegas, Chicago and internationally in Finland, Ireland, Italy, and Israel.

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