“There was always excitement around the 3rd floor of Metcalf.” Artist Dale Chihuly, who revolutionized the art of glassblowing, is the subject of a new documentary, “Master of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly,” airing Sunday night on the Smithsonian Channel. Chihuly received an MFA in Ceramics from RISD in 1968, because he had to return the next year to create the RISD Glass Department, where he taught until 1983. It looks like the show features a fair amount of archival footage and photos from the early years; in other words, you might be in this! The ensuing years — the founding of the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state, followed by world domination — should be no less interesting.
Seen here is “Gilded Frost and Jet Chandelier” from 2008, which hangs above the staircase at the 6th floor of the RISD Museum (as you come out of the Egyptian Gallery). This is certainly not one of his more vivid pieces, but I came to appreciate it much more when taking this close-up. Unfortunately, due to its placement, the chandelier is mostly viewed in front of a large window, with the overall impression being . . . fifty shades of gray. It’s still pretty impressive.
Fortunately, the documentary promises many scenes of mind-blowing color, as well as one aspect of Chihuly’s life with which I had not been familiar:
“Dale Chihuly is at this point the greatest collector of objects of any artist,” says artist and critic Bruce Helander in the documentary. Chihuly’s passion for collecting even surpasses that of esteemed predecessors Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol—also tremendously prolific artists whose work Chihuly unsurprisingly collects.
After receiving his MFA, Chihuly became the first American employee at the Venini factory in Venice. The island of Murano is often dismissed as a garish, tourist-trap; I liked it a lot. He returned in 1996 with the spectacular Chihuly Over Venice.
“Master of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly,” 9pm, Sunday, December 11, Smithsonian Channel
The above angle shows it off to better advantage. Stop and look up.
This is the common view.