This summer, two of our favorite things come together when the Denver Botanic Gardens at York Street hosts an outdoor exhibit by Dale Chihuly. His beautiful, inventive and organic glass shapes will adorn the already stunning gardens from June 14-November 30. Here and there, in and amongst the greenery and flowers, we’ll be able to discover his sculptures intended for outdoor showing. We had lots of questions about the exhibit so we asked someone who should know, Lisa Eldred, director of exhibitions, art and interpretation for the Denver Botanic Gardens.
IGTD: What is so special about Chihuly’s work that made Denver Botanic Gardens to want to exhibit it?
LE: Dale Chihuly’s artwork appeals to a wide number of people; his dynamic, large-scale installations are visionary and highly recognizable.
IGTD: What makes this exhibit different from previous art exhibitions held at the Gardens?
LE: Many aspects make this a stand-out exhibition, including the materials and brilliant colors. This is very different from other exhibitions the Gardens has presented.
IGTD: Was there anything about Colorado and the Gardens that really motivated Chihuly to present here?
LE: To date there has not been a significant outdoor exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s work in the Rocky Mountain Region. In addition, Denver Botanic Gardens’ water features and garden architecture were of interest to him.
IGTD: For someone who has never seen his work, how would you describe it?
LE: Fantastical, yet familiar at the same time because of the organic forms.
IGTD: Is all of the art new for this exhibit?
LE: The majority of the work is considered site-specific, meaning it is designed for Denver Botanic Gardens’ spaces. Because there are many components to Chihuly’s artwork, elements are organized based on what makes sense for the installation and Chihuly considers the gardenscape as part of the composition. Two significant pieces will be considerably different than what has been exhibited elsewhere.
IGTD: How many sculptures will there be?
LE: Because the installations are comprised of multiple pieces, it’s difficult to enumerate at this point. Siting plans are still being finalized, but at present there are 12 locations throughout the gardens that will feature Dale Chihuly’s site-specific installations, many of which are comprehensive and feature many components.
IGTD: What is the range in size of the sculptures that will be on exhibit?
LE: There will be a wide variety of scales, including smaller freestanding fiori works clustered together increasing in size to reach the more monumental. Among the largest works in the exhibition is a 30-foot neon tower.
IGTD: Will Dale Chihuly himself be in Denver for the installation?
LE: Mr. Chihuly has created the exhibition plan, complete with site selection within the Gardens and determination of the works he and his team will create for the installation. An on-site installation team will implement his plan. Mr. Chihuly is scheduled to give an artist talk and book signing on Saturday, June 14.
IGTD: Will the sculptures be placed in the same areas as previous art shows or situated differently?
LE: There will be some locations that are the same, others completely new, including in the new Ellipse Garden, opening this season.
IGTD: Will there be installations in the Conservatory or at Mordecai?
LE: No, there are none planned for either of these areas. There will be an installation within the lobby water feature in the Boettcher Memorial Center. A nearby looped video will provide background on the artist and the sculpture-making process.
IGTD: Will the pieces match the theme of each garden theme (Japanese, plains, romance)?
LE: Context, site-lines, and reflection are of key interest. The sculptures complement all garden environments.
IGTD: Will any of the sculptures be at Chatfield or any other satellite locations?
LE: No, only at the York Street location.
IGTD: Are there any special events planned around the exhibit, i.e. glass blowing demonstrations, concerts, lectures, family activities? If so, what?
LE: There are many ways to enjoy the exhibition: guided tours for adults and families, classes, off-site field trips and lectures. There will be an artist talk and book signing on Saturday, June 14, opening day. Visit the Gardens’ web site www.botanicgardens.org for complete details.
IGTD: This exhibit is a really big deal for the Gardens. Tell us how you’re feeling about having it there.
LE: It’s going to be an important contribution to summer tourism to both Denver and to the state of Colorado. Exhibitions of Dale Chihuly’s work celebrate universal qualities of art that are understandable to all ages: color, texture, form. There is at once an other-worldly quality and recognizable aspect to his work. Fantastical, yet natural. Theatrical. In addition, how he has pushed the application of glass as an art medium during his decades-long career is to be commended. Scale and combinations of forms are continually changing; and his dedication to education unfailing.
For more information about “Chihuly” visit the Denver Botanic Gardens’ website.
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