Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
American artist Dale Chihuly has marveled at the mysteries of glass since blowing his first small glass bubble as an art student in 1965. The progression of his work over the past 50 years is now showcased at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville in the temporary exhibition “Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest” on view June 3-Aug. 14.
The exhibition contains more than 300 objects comprised of 14 bodies of work in the gallery and 10 large-scale outdoor installations. The works are featured both in the gallery and along the newly enhanced North Forest trail. Highlighted are Chihuly’s signature works and newest projects.
Admission for this ticketed exhibition is $20 for adults and includes the indoor and outdoor venue. Once the gallery portion closes, the cost will be $10 for Chihuly: In the Forest, which will continue to be on view through Nov. 13. There is no cost for museum members and youth ages 18 and under.
Two works are accessible to visitors without a ticket. Newly installed on the Twentieth Century Gallery Bridge is the “Azure Icicle Chandelier” and the “Niijima Floats” are displayed in Crystal Pond near the south entrance. The palette of the 675-piece chandelier was created just for Crystal Bridges.
There are lots of firsts associated with the exhibit. It’s the first indoor-outdoor exhibition for Crystal Bridges and the first time Chihuly’s works are on view in a natural forest setting. The scope of the artist’s career is not presented in chronological order, but touch on inspirations and progressions of his work over time. The exhibit is certainly a unique experience since it’s set in traditional gallery space along with the monumental scale of the sculptures in the forest.
The light, form, and color of Chihuly’s glass works are stunning to look at. The variety of media in the exhibition includes not only the glass works he is so well-known for, but also works on paper, and neon sculptures.
Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly established the glass program at the Rhode Island School of design and co-founded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. For five decades he has pushed the boundaries of studio glass and created installations for audiences around the globe. His works have been included in more than 250 museum collections.
Chihuly pioneered irregular, asymmetrical forms by allowing the molten glass to bend, fold, and move according to its own rhythm and gravity. He experimented with size, weight, and thinness to create new shapes. He expanded the size and scale of art glass with sculptural and architectural installations. Over this long career, his stunning creations of vessels, orbs, and chandeliers have become familiar to art lovers and glass enthusiasts.
He is globally renowned for his ambitious site-specific installations in public spaces, as well as in museums and gardens all over the world. Crystal Bridges is the only venue for this particular exhibition and many of the works are presented in a new way or for the first time.
For example, “Weaving with Fused Glass” is displayed for the first time in the gallery. This work was created in 1965 and incorporates glass woven into a textile, representing a point of discovery for a young Chihuly, who was studying interior design and interested in weaving when he began experimenting with the medium of glass. “This is a very important moment,” says Britt Cornett, head of exhibitions for Chihuly Studios. “We have not shown this before.”
Outside, “Sun,” created especially for the exhibition at Crystal Bridges, features a never-before-seen palette of colors. Chihuly chose subtle, yet brilliant golds and clear glass forms, connecting back to Venetian glass traditions to capture and reflect the natural light of the Ozark forest.
The opening of the temporary exhibition serves as the grand re-opening of the North Forest Trail, formerly called the Dogwood Trail. A year in the making, this paved trail increases accessibility to the museum’s natural landscape, especially for visitors using wheelchairs, strollers, or mobility scooters.
The 1.1 mile trail is 10 feet wide and designed in a figure eight. Along the trail are public restrooms and a courtyard with a food truck. The trail is lit at night and the Chihuly sculptures are a whole new sight to see at night as well. Additionally, Cornett says the artwork will feel completely different when fall arrives and the trees change colors toward the end of the temporary exhibit. The dappled light hitting the sculptures through the leaves of the trees provide a changing view also.
After this exhibit closes, the North Forest Trail will re-open for public access. It connects to the Razorback Regional greenway trail system.
For more information on the exhibit or Crystal Bridges, visit Crystalbridges. org.