365 day 126 – reflections on Chihuly

by lydiasee

I am quite torn about my feelings toward the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the MFA right now.  As a teenager in Charlotte, NC, when the Mint Museum of Craft and Design opened in 1998 (now known as the Mint Uptown), I watched Chihuly (well, his assistants) install one of his chandeliers in the lobby of the newly remodeled downtown building, and it seemed revolutionary at the time. He also offered a gallery talk, and as a high-school student at Northwest School of the Arts, I was expected to take full advantage, and I did. Years later, while on a trip to Ohio, I came across his work installed at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, and was slightly less impressed as many of the works shown were work that I felt I had seen before.

Now, in Boston, that feeling of deja vu is overwhelming. [edit: incidentally, upon further thought, the show is called “Through the Looking Glass” and was supposed to be kind of a retrospective. I do get it, he is revolutionary and the first to use glass as a medium for large installations. Pieces like Mille Fiori and Lime Green Icicle Tower are visualized and implemented beautiully.]

It’s not that I don’t feel as if his work is moving or monumental, I simply feel that he is a niche artist who has found his sweet spot and will not move past it.

In addition, I truly feel that an artist’s handicap is what makes his or her art great, and I have a slight problem with the fact that he has a staff of assistants who make the work he visualizes. Many artists have had immense physical obstacles and have had to adapt their art to fit their abilities (Frida Kahlo, Chuck Close, Dorothea Lange, etc.). I would like to see what Dale could do with his own two hands.

Anyway, while walking through the exhibit at the MFA, I found the other museum-patrons and the reflections of light on the walls more interesting than the pieces themselves.

Perhaps he anticipated such a reaction, but I doubt it.