Exhibit Examines Chihuly’s Creative Growth

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement and its 10th year of existence, Museum of Glass examines the early career of Tacoma’s most famous artist in a new exhibit. “Origins: Early Works by Dale Chihuly” showcases works made from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.

The earliest works date to 1968, when Chihuly was a student at Rhode Island School of Design. Two goblets made while he studied for his master’s degree are displayed. They are one color, a light greenish/brown. They seem almost functional, as though one might be able to drink from them.

From 1975 are three works from his “Navaho Blanket Cylinder” series. Native American textiles have been a major influence on Chihuly over the years. This marks his first important series. The application of thin strips of glass to represent threads appears here, a technique Chihuly would experiment at various points in time.

A poster for a 1975 exhibit of this series at the Institute of American Indian Art is displayed.

Two pieces from his “Irish Cylinders” series are here. These were inspired by the novel “Ulysses” by Irish writer James Joyce.

A collage of photos taken at Pilchuck School of Glass, which Chihuly co-founded, show him and colleagues during the 1970s and 1980s.

Two “Seaform Goblets” and two “Macchia Goblets” made in 1988 are so much more elaborate than the goblets he made 20 years earlier.

“Light Violet Macchia Set with Black Lip Wrap” was made in 1983. It has a large piece of white and pink. It holds about 10 smaller pieces inside.

Many of Chihuly’s creations begin with a drawing. Six done in 1985 and one from 1982 are on display. Of some interest is finding out who owns the various items. Some are from MOG’s permanent collection. These drawings were loaned by Susan Brotman and her husband Jeffrey Brotman, co-founder of Costco.

American Art Company, a gallery in Tacoma, donated two pieces. “Alizarin Mader Soft” from 1989 is a basket piece, blue on the outside, orange inside. “Orange Spined Seaforms and Viridian Lip Wrap” from 1987 shows his skill with thin lines across the glass.

Many of the pieces were donated by George R. Stroemple, who purchased hundreds of Chihuly’s early works.

Two macchia pieces in one case display considerable contrast. “Black Opal” is black with spots of subdued shades of blues and green. “Pumpkin Orange,” meanwhile, is a very bright shade of orange.

A central piece is “Persian Sea Forms,” which was given to MOG last year. Here we see the influence of sea creatures and the Persian ideals of design coming together.

Museum of Glass has organized a good cross-section of Chihuly’s early career. The inclusion of posters of exhibits helps chronicle his rise in the international art scene. Collectively, the works chronicle his influence as an artist and role as a pioneer in the studio glass movement.

“Origins: Early Works by Dale Chihuly” runs through Oct. 21. For more information, visit www.museumofglass.org.

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