Chihuly in the Desert

Chihuly in the Desert

Published On: 06-03-2014 04:37pm

Comments: 11 - Hits: 0

Category: Just Passing Through

June 2014
In the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States, temperatures often soar into the 100's during a typical summer afternoon.  The landscape is populated with plants especially suited to live and grow in the extreme heat. Cactus, growing in a variety of unusual shapes, are covered in sharp spines for protection against hungry desert animals.  Stately Saguaro stand straight and tall like sentinels.  Prickly Pear yield edible fruit after its blossoms fade. Fragile Cholla break at the slightest touch and stick to any who brush against this prickly plant. Those who venture into the desert must be prepared to survive the heat. The Sonoran Desert is hot, and the result of this heat is unusual beauty in the shapes of the desert plants that thrive there.  


My husband and I traveled to the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona and spent a week enjoying the dry heat and the amazing scenery of rugged mountains and cactus, blue skies and sunsets. We arrived in Phoenix just in time to catch the last hours of a special Chihuly glass exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens. What a wonderful setting for this collection of glass sculptures!


Dale Chihuly is a world renowned glass artist. For more than 30 years, his signature style glass work has graced galleries around the world. Over the years, environmental exhibits, like the one in Phoenix, have traveled to Jerusalem, the Netherlands, Quebec, and many cities throughout the United States. A short biography about this unique artist can be found here:  Dale Chihuly's Glass Menagerie


Heat.  Extreme heat, up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to produce the beautiful blown glass sculptures made by Dale Chihuly and his team of glass workers. Working together in a complex sequence of steps, the Chihuly team create individual pieces of vibrant colors and organic forms which fit together to form sculptures of fantastical size. 



Set among plants native to the Sonoran Desert, the glass sculptures provided an exciting contrast of light and color as we followed the paths of the garden.  Sadly, my pocket camera could not accurately capture the vibrant reds, purples, yellows, blues, and greens of the glass, but the images are beautiful just the same.


As I viewed the fantastic glass, I realized that the sculptures echoed many of the same shapes found in the natural plant life of the desert.  Take a closer look at this Prickly Pear cactus blossom and the twists of the glass sculpture.




Here is a close up view of the emerging spiked fruit of the Prickly Pear.



I especially liked these purple spikes.  The spiked shape is repeated in young saguaros outlined against the desert blue sky.



Gigantic psychedelic bubbles or whimsical glass balloons were clustered together in this piece.


Still more shapes floated, or exploded, in a boat in a small pond.


At first glance, this grouping set among the ribs of a dead saguaro cactus looked like a flock of white herons.


This spiky set surrounding a saguaro cactus reminded me of black and cream striped porcupine quills and the sharp thorns that cover a cactus.  Ouch!


I was amazed at the size of this flowering spike from a type of agave plant.  It stretched several feet into the air and was a brilliant contrast against the blue sky.  Do you see the similarities with this Chihuly sculpture?



Slender curves and twists were a common aspect of the glass shapes as well as some of the natural plants I saw and gave an interesting texture and contrast when compared to the sharp, pointed aspects of other desert plants.







I was excited to see many blooming plants, including this passion flower vine and these brilliant red blossoms, and I was again reminded of the glass.





I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of the Chihuly glass exhibit at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens.  The memory of these fantastic sculptures is one that I won't soon forget.  If you have had the opportunity to view a Chihuly exhibit, I'd love to hear about it!
Please leave a comment and make my day.  Thank you!


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Reader's Comments

By myMountainStudio on 10/24/2014 @ 02:06am

Wow! Such beautiful glass work AND plants! Your photos are wonderful and I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing... it's wonderful to see other parts of the world and other creative talent. :)

By ShanghaiTai on 07/04/2014 @ 02:59am

Very cool!

By PolkadotOrchid on 06/18/2014 @ 03:28am

Oh wow! Desert plants are so sculptural to begin with, that this is a great setting for Chihuly's glass sculptures. You're making me want to travel to the sonoran desert!

By adorebynat on 06/11/2014 @ 04:34am

Those are definitely some interesting and gorgeous glass work! I love seeing the plants too. Aren't you just one lucky gal? ;-)

By Wyverndesigns on 06/10/2014 @ 03:31pm

How lucky for you that you were there for that exhibition! I've never seen such gorgeous glass work and the pictures of the desert plants they mimic are amazing!

By bluemorningexpressions on 06/10/2014 @ 02:28pm

wonderful post! you got some outstanding shots, and the exhibit was spectacular! when I was in Seattle, I went past his exhibit at the foot of the Space Needle. there was also an exhibit of his bowls, and they were too gorgeous for words. great post

By ChrysalisArtGlass on 06/08/2014 @ 08:47am

This post combines several of my most favourite things, Glass, Plants, flowers and photography. Chihuly's glass sculptures have really captured the essence of the desert plants. Thanks so much Debbie for sharing your fabulous photos.

By craftsofthepast on 06/05/2014 @ 05:08pm

Glass artists never cease to amaze me. Those slender pipette glass forms twist and turn to the light. I am sure you almost see them moving in the wind when viewing them in person. Wonderful blog, Debbie. Thanks. Anna

By KanweieneaKreations on 06/05/2014 @ 04:16pm

Never been there, but getting a chance to "travel" there with these fantastic pictures. What amazing sculptures!!! Thank you for sharing these with us :)

By PebblesatmyFeet on 06/04/2014 @ 02:39pm

Thank you for sharing this interesting exhibit. The sculptures and the native plants in the garden are amazing. I noticed lights in some of the photos - I'll bet the glass sculptures would look fantastic in the dark - maybe even more like an undersea garden than a desert one. Catherine said it - WOW!

By ShadowDogDesigns on 06/03/2014 @ 09:12pm

Have been a fan of Chihuly for many, many years and have seen smaller exhibits. But this one - WOW!!! As I was scrolling through the photos, I kept realizing how brilliant the foresight and the planning and the creation was in all of the beauty, so perfect in its setting. Thank you, Debbie for sharing. And I hope you have another post or two in store from your trip. Am sure you had a great time back in the old stomping grounds.

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