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17 July 2012 / leggypeggy

Chihuly in the Dallas Arboretum

We started our latest travels—about time, I hear you say—with a couple of days visiting a dear friend in Texas. Visiting means sightseeing too, and today’s trip to the Dallas Arboretum was a standout.

The main attraction (aside from entertaining bus rides) was the huge outdoor display of iconic works by Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor and entrepreneur.

The 14 large and dramatic works—many with multiple components—were spread across the arboretum’s 66-acres of beautifully planted gardens. It was a lot of fun to turn a corner or pass through a gate and be greeted by breathtaking colour and movement.

We’ve admired (lusted after) Chihuly’s work twice before in Canberra, in 1999 and 2008. As an aside, the 1999 exhibit ended in tears when 10 of 40 pieces displayed outdoors in the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden were stolen and later found smashed. Pieces displayed indoors were fine.

Chihuly, who turned 70 last year, earned degrees in interior design and sculpture from the Universities of Washington and Wisconsin–Madison, respectively. In1968, he went on to study glass in Venice on a Fulbright Fellowship. A few years later he founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state.

In 1976, he lost the sight in his left eye after a head-on car accident in England. He continued to blow glass until 1979 when a dislocated shoulder left him unable to hold the glass blowing pipe. That’s when he started hiring others to do the work, leaving him to create and be ‘more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor’. His team approach involves master glassblowers and assistants, who often work at lightning speed.

One of three sculptures—all with waterfall backgrounds—made especially for Dallas.

We watched most of a rather-longer-than-it needed-to-be video about his work and those who work with him. Chihuly uses a vast array of colours and applies them to a variety of shapes—icicles, suns, stars, chandeliers, floats, belugas, towers, crystals, reeds and other plant forms.

According to the video, Chihuly designs and directs the creation and installation of key parts of a display, but allows his main glassblower a lot of free-rein.

Individual sculptures can include thousands of pieces. I get the impression that the team makes tens of thousands of items for a display, but not all will be used in any one exhibit. Especially for the outdoor exhibits, Chihuly likes to let the form of the sculpture be guided by its surrounding plants, trees, water features and other elements. Part of the video showed him chucking huge pieces of glass into a river and then floating these downstream to where they were ‘herded’ into a final form.

We were amazed to see how durable each item is. In fact, a couple of volunteers told us of a recent hailstorm that hit the arboretum. Only one of the massive sculptures was damaged.

The glass artworks will remain on display through 5 November 2012. There are also night shows on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with spectacular lighting and slightly higher ticket prices. Pity we aren’t staying long enough to see that too.

Today three of us got in for less than $40, and we spent about four hours exploring the lovely gardens and displays. At the very end, we had a free tram ride through the main paths of the arboretum. The volunteer driver shared plenty of insider nuggets of information about the arboretum itself. Note to Australians—the Dallas Arboretum is what we in Australia would call a botanic gardens.

Chihuly’s largest permanent exhibit is in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Even though I’m heading to Oklahoma tomorrow, I’ll miss seeing it. But next month I hope to see the three pieces held by institutions in Omaha Nebraska. I’ll post photos if I can take any.

The pluses of buses
Public transport is a great way to get around Dallas. All-day tickets are $4 and it’s easy to look up routes on the internet.

But the best thing is watching the other characters who ride the bus. Soon after we boarded, two guys and a gal got on. They had no shortage of tattoos and piercings, but the woman was missing quite a few front teeth. One can only wonder how that happened. Didn’t stop her from sharing big smiles.

The conversation was amusing.

The short guy and the gal cuddled up opposite us. He explained to the tall guy that he wasn’t available this afternoon because he had to see his probation officer. No detail as to why, so I assume they all knew.

Tall guy mentioned Amanda, and snaggletooth flared with a ‘don’t mention that B***H in front of me.’ ‘Who Amanda?’ said tall guy with a huge, innocent grin. That stirred her up. After tall guy said Amanda a few more times and smirked smugly, short guy asked tall guy why they hadn’t yet met his new ‘lady’. ‘We promise we won’t think less of you after we meet her. Not like with Charity.’

So on and on and round and round it went. Needless to say, they weren’t on their way to the arboretum. By the way, I changed Amanda’s name to protect the innocent.

The bus ride home was only half as entertaining.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Louie / Jul 17 2012 2:37 pm

    Love it, love it, love it!!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2012 11:07 pm

      I could go again today. Just amazing to see.


  2. lmo58 / Jul 17 2012 6:25 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    Glad to see that you and John have landed safely on the other side of the world. Thank you for the excellent post and the lovely photos. I too was enraged by the mindless destruction of Chihuly’s work. The gardens look beautiful too. When and where is the wedding?
    Best wishes


    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2012 11:08 pm

      The gardens are lovely, and on the edge of a lake. The wedding is 4 August.


  3. jan sessions / Jul 17 2012 6:32 pm



    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2012 11:08 pm

      I hope a display comes to Australia again soon. A real treat.


  4. Potsie / Jul 19 2012 8:48 am

    My favorite was the Dallas Star sculpture. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The canoe filled with random stuff looked like a fabulous hat Carmen Miranda would have worn on her head. It was a beautiful sight that photos don’t can’t do justice… It is floating on a small pond in the park but the lake in the background is actually maybe half a kilometer away but it looks like it is one body of water. Chihuly is a genius.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 19 2012 3:14 pm

      It was a fabulous place to visit. And I agree with your favourites.


  5. Grace Mya / Jul 19 2012 4:48 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    I’m glad you’re having a great time. Those glassworks are just beautiful ! Enjoy your holiday !



    • leggypeggy / Jul 19 2012 10:39 pm

      Thank you Grace. We are having a great time and seeing lots of wonderful sights. Will be posting more soon. If you aren’t already, you can follow the blog by submitting your email address. Then you’ll get an email every time I post.


  6. duonyte / Jul 19 2012 10:04 pm

    Love the photos – Chihuly is fabulous, I’ve enjoyed the displays I’ve seen tremendously. Looking forward to following you on your latest adventure, Peggy!



    • leggypeggy / Jul 19 2012 10:34 pm

      Chihuly’s work is wonderful. Hoping to bring you more beautiful and interesting sights.


  7. Latha Baradwaj / Dec 21 2012 5:56 pm

    Wonderful. For those of us who cannot visit Dallas, these pics were a real treat. Thanx for sharing.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 21 2012 11:48 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the pics. The displays were so wonderful, I had to share.


  8. barkinginthedark / Dec 7 2018 6:15 pm

    Dale Chihuly is an amazing artist and anyone who would steal and then destroy his art should be hung. continue…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2018 7:35 pm

      Chihuly is amazing. We saw more of his work in June in Denver. Stealing is a no-no all the time.



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