In the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States, temperatures often soar into the 100's during a typical summer afternoon. Â 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. Â Stately Saguaro stand straight and tall like sentinels. Â 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. Â
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:Â Dale Chihuly's Glass Menagerie
Heat. Â 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.Â
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. Â 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.Â 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 theseÂ purple spikes.Â 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 moreÂ shapes floated, or exploded, in a boat in a small pond.
At first glance, this grouping set amongÂ the ribs of a dead saguaro cactusÂ looked like a flock of white herons.