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Chihuly over SLO 

A tell-all non-interview with one of the world's foremost glass studio artists

click to enlarge GLASS MAN:  Dale Chihuly will lecture about his work with glass on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Spanos Theatre. Admission is free. For more information visit pacslo.org or chihuly.com. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY ARTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY ARTS
  • GLASS MAN: Dale Chihuly will lecture about his work with glass on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Spanos Theatre. Admission is free. For more information visit pacslo.org or chihuly.com.
Dale Chihuly might just be to glass what Andy Warhol was to pop art. The Seattle resident has an eccentric appearance—think Richard Simmons with an eye patch—and works out of a 40,000 square foot warehouse called The Boathouse on the Seattle waterfront. In 1985 he registered Chihuly, Inc., which now boasts more than 150 employees who make the pieces sold and exhibited by Chihuly. He has exhibited around the world, across the entire United States and in France, Venice, the United Kingdom, St. Petersburg, and in such spaces as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Palais du Louvre. In 1996 he installed 14 chandeliers to adorn the palazzos and canals of Venice, and employed a film crew to document the two-year project, which he called “Chihuly over Venice.” He built a wall of ice in Jerusalem as a symbol of his desire to melt tensions in the Middle East. New Times was unable to obtain an interview with Chihuly, but if we had the opportunity to discuss his art, these are the questions that would have been asked.

 

NEW TIMES What’s an average day like in your warehouse?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES I understand that losing your eye removed you from the thick of much of the glassblowing action, but to what extent does this limit you creatively?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES What projects or installations are you working on right now?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES I understand that you’ve been experimenting with polyvitro as an alternative to glass. Where are you at in terms of these experiments? What limitations does glass pose that this plastic might be able to overcome?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES Every art form has a vocabulary that various practitioners contribute to; where do the names that you selected for your various glass forms—cylinders, seaforms, macchia, Persians, Venetians, Niijima floats—come from? Did you coin these terms?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES You incorporate a lot of performance elements into your work, particularly your installations (floating glass bubbles on a pond in Finland, for example). What would you say about the importance of showmanship for an artist whose work is his or her career? Do you ever feel compelled to put on a show or do you simply enjoy this as an enhancement of your art?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES You’ve exhibited in almost every major art venue around the world; how do you set markers or goals for yourself after that?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES Your chandeliers represent a significant segment of your work; how did you develop these and why do you call them chandeliers?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES You’re known for having a vast and diverse assortment of collections—Pendleton blankets, accordions, baseball gloves, vintage television sets. What are you collecting most aggressively right now? What sets you off on a new fit of collecting?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES You’ve faced accusations that you are so far removed from the creative process—given that other glassblowers make pieces called Chihuly pieces—that the work is not really your own. How do you answer that charge?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES At what point does a piece cease to be a Chihuly? Do you believe that as long as it comes out of a warehouse that you own, the piece is a Chihuly?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES You’ve also been accused of having employees forge your signature on various Chihuly pieces while you were traveling; how do you respond to this?

 

CHIHULY

 

NEW TIMES What do you plan to discuss during your lecture at Cal Poly?

 

CHIHULY … 

 

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach talks to herself at aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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