Fantasy in Glass: Chihuly’s Pure, Unadulterated Eye Candy

For an artist, there can be few disasters more damaging than a loss of vision. And yet, this is exactly what happened to world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly in 1976 when an auto accident in England cost him the sight in his left eye. 

After months of recuperation and soul searching, he made the momentous decision to take a step back as sole creator and become “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor” in his work.

Now he has three studios and a talented team of prolific glassblowers creating fragile masterpieces which are enthralling art fans around the world. His ethereal splashes of color decorate museums, office buildings, casinos, churches, gardens, and even bourbon distilleries.

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they’ve never experienced.” –Dale Chihuly

On a mid-winter trip to replenish our vitamin D supply, we visited the outstanding Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, and were astounded with the size and variety of the jaw-dropping exhibit. 

An art teacher friend of mine once told me that to truly appreciate a work of art it’s helpful to know a bit about its meaning: what’s the message? This always struck me as pretty esoteric stuff, and try as I might, I frequently can’t work out exactly what the artist is saying. But the thing I love about Chihuly’s work is that I don’t have to worry about all this artsy-fartsy business. His colorful pieces are standouts and simply a feast for the eyes: pure, unadulterated eye candy. 

This year has been trying for everyone, and a bit of candy will do us all some good. We hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing and healthy holiday. Take care of yourselves and loved ones. 

Happy Trails, James & Terri

P.S. If you’re like us and you’re trying to keep things simple, check out:

Simplifying Our Christmas: 7 Inspirations That Work for Us

Terri’s sister Nancy contemplates Chihuly’s blue chandelier.

Photo Credits: 6. Bryan Ohno   

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

71 thoughts

    1. Thanks Jo. The holiday this year promises to give us all a chance to relax and maybe establish some calmer, less frantic traditions. All the best to you for a healthy and happy holiday. ~James

  1. Gorgeous eye candy indeed. It even looks good enough to eat…lol. Chihuly is an incredibly talented man, I had not heard of him before, so thank you for introducing me to his wonderful glass work. I hope you guys have a good Christmas and that 2021 will be filled with interesting events and adventures 🙂

    1. Gilda, Chihuly’s art is distinctive and instantly recognizable so when you see it, now you’ll know a bit about the artist.

      From what I read, the holidays in the UK are going to be as strange as they will be here in the US. But with the vaccine, things should slowly improve in 2021, and there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that you and Brian have a great holiday, and we wish you both all the best for a happy and healthy 2021. ~James

  2. Thank you James and Terri for sharing your photos of this wonderful artist’s work! I think that focus on “meaning” is a way academics try to abscond with the art experience. I believe that it is how art makes us feel that is important. Chihuly is pure exuberance, which I love. Hope you will check out the festive decorations at Fake Flamenco. Happy Holidays! Rebecca

    1. Well said Rebecca, and Chihuly is the perfect case in point. I’ve never seen any of his pieces that haven’t been pleasant to see and most are downright striking in their impact. I particularly like them in natural settings with a wild, green backdrop.

      Take care of yourself and have a wonderful holiday. ~James

  3. I love his work. In my opinion, some art has a message from the artist, other art is made for the viewer to find his or her own message, and some art is to enjoy for its beauty. Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Thanks for your enjoyable and colorful post!

    1. Betty, that’s probably a near perfect definition of art, and it covers all the bases. In the case of Chihuly, as another commenter put it: he’s pure exuberance – which is perfect for this time of year. Have a wonderful holiday. ~James

  4. A couple of years ago he had an exhibit in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and I’m so glad I got a chance to see it. His work is so expensive so unfortunately unable to indulge in a little piece for my collection.
    Leslie

    1. Leslie, we checked into a small bowl and waaaayy out of our price range. We did find a Chinese knockoff that was considerably cheaper but the Chihuly touch just wasn’t there. Anyway, good for him if he can get those prices, and honestly, I would probably be nervous having a $5000 piece of glass sitting around. ~James

  5. Spectacular eye candy indeed! So fun to see the crazy shapes and colors – the only time I’ve seen his work in reality is in the Seattle airport. Thanks for these great photos and have a happy holiday season!

    1. Marilyn, crazy is the word for all the shapes he produces. If you get a chance, search youtube for a video of his workshop and how these fun pieces are made – wonderful. Have a fun and relaxing holiday and all the best for 2021. ~James

  6. Your presentation of Chihuly’s eye candy was just what I needed on this gray winter day! What a feast, for sure. I wasn’t sure what had happened to him after the accident, so thanks for filling us all in. It’s such a joy to see what he — and those he mentors — are producing today. Still colorful. Still creative. Still not artsy-fartsy!

    1. Rusha, for years I just assumed his eye injury may have been related to his work, but not so. He rallied that’s for sure, and what a great example of the benefits of a positive attitude and having loads of talent. I read that his studios have turned out $27 million in glass so he’s doing just fine, and deservedly so.

      You and Bert take care and have a great holiday. We have a remote chance for Xmas snow up here, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. ~James

    1. Sayori, I’ve seen a few glass artists at work, and I’m always amazed at the process they have to go through to create such unique works. And once the process has started, it has to carry on to the end without delay: lots of pressure for sure. Take care of yourself and have a wonderful holiday. ~James

    1. Anabel, I think the first time I ever saw his work was a huge chandelier hanging in the foyer of the V&A in London. I haven’t been in some years and don’t know if it’s still there, but it was incredible. Take care and all the best for a pleasant holiday, and hopefully, a better year in 2021. ~James

  7. National Geographic did an article on Dale Chihuly back in the ’90s when I was living in Seattle. Like him or not, he’s certainly been prolific. And much of that is due to his very talented glass-working crew. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Henry, he certainly is prolific and I’m sure his talented team is learning techniques that will fuel the glass-art business for decades. And given the visual impact of his work this is a very good thing. He’s made exceptional glass pieces accessible to the general public and this can only be good for everyone. ~James

  8. Eye candy indeed! Thanks for sharing these masterpieces of color and beauty, James and Terri! I wish I knew about the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg when we briefly stopped there last winter/spring, right before the pandemic arrived. I would have enjoyed that exhibition and it would have brightened our time in Florida!

    1. Liesbet, sorry you missed the Morean. It’s in the old part of downtown St. Pete, right on the bay and that area in itself is worth a visit. We rented an apartment for 6 months in Old St. Pete and it was wonderful.

      I see you guys are out west for the holidays which should be fun and a change of pace. Take care of yourselves, stay warm, and have a great holiday. ~James

    1. Alison, I’ve seen a few videos of his glass-blowing shop and they’re astounding. It must have been fascinating to see it in person. I can’t imagine the stress they must feel to maintain any level of creativity while working with hot, break-at-any-second glass. Take care and have a great holiday. ~James

  9. Stunning, every bit of it. And apropos, wouldn’t you love to find a store that hawked treats such as glorious as these? Chichuly Candy! I bet they’d be mouth-watering, a taste of the divine 😉

    1. Amit, I have to give Terri full credit. She edited a few of our photos so they look exactly like a dish of hard candy. Pretty cool. I hope things are going well there and that your holiday is a good one. Maybe next year will be approaching normal. Take care. ~James

    1. Thanks Darlene. I see that things in Spain are as wacky as they are here, so the holiday promises to be strange for everyone. Luckily for us, we’re able to see a few of our family who are close by, and we’re waiting patiently for the vaccine. Take care of yourself and have a happy and healthy holiday. ~James

      1. We are so fortunate in our little corner of Spain as we have had very few cases. Closing the provincial borders early was smart as it has kept the virus out. We will have my in-laws over for Christmas dinner but the wonderful Christmas barbeque party on the beach has been cancelled for this year. Enjoy the holiday and stay safe. xo

    1. You’re right Jacqui, this is a lovely story. Chihuly is a great example of being flexible and having a wonderful attitude about life – lemons to lemonade in the flesh.

      I hope you have a healthy and happy holiday, and all the best for a successful 2021. ~James

    1. Thanks Shane. I’m with you on the rolling out again. We’re looking forward to early spring and maybe some camping if all goes well. Even with the vaccine, it will be a while before things ease, but in the meantime, some careful travel might just be possible. I hope that you have a wonderful and healthy holiday, and all the best for some travel in the coming year. ~James

  10. You’ve put St. Petersburg on the map for me for my future – when coronavirus has been tamed – trip to the USA, and hopefully to Florida… Thanks!

    1. Bea, I think that you’d enjoy St. Pete. Like much of Florida, it suffers from tourist overcrowding, but by Florida standards it’s an “old” city, and the older parts of the city are very cool in a 1930s and 40s nostalgic way. This particularly applies to Old St. Pete which is where the Chihuly Collection is. It sits in the middle of the old downtown area and is right on a beautiful bay. When you make it to FL, definitely put St. Pete on your list. Have a happy and healthy holiday and all the best for a better 2021. ~James

  11. Dear James & Terri,

    I very much enjoy both your posts entitled “Fantasy in Glass: Chihuly’s Pure, Unadulterated Eye Candy” and “Our Love Affair With Glass: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” respectively. It is heartening to know that all three of us are aspiring to being better connorseurs of art glass. It is also wonderful that all of us are hoping in one way or another to be better artists and to champion the beautiful works of others, not the least those of Dale Chihuly. Please kindly send my best regards to your glass artist friends. I commend all of you for your mutual support and admiration. Well done!

    The beauty of art glass is so inspiring that it can indeed make our lives more fulfilling and artful, perhaps even more so now that the viral pandemic is all around us.

    Art can indeed make our lives more fulfilling and holistic, perhaps even more so now that the viral pandemic is all around us.

    It seems that we have a number of things in common, namely, our love of art and our promoting a holistic vision of art and through art, and thereby nurturing an artistic vision of life.

    James & Terri, given the quality and relevance of your two post, I have hyperlinked them to one of my posts so that my readers can access your posts. My said post is available at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/marble-as-decorative-collectable-art-glass-toy-and-computer-game/

    Please kindly let me know what you think of my said post by leaving your feedback at the comment section of my post, especially if you think that it could be improved or expanded in certain ways. Thank you in anticipation.

    May you find the said post dealing with my understanding and appreciation of art glass and marbles meaningful to you and your readers in various ways. Please be informed that you might need to use a desktop or laptop computer with a large screen to view the rich multimedia contents available for heightening your multisensory enjoyment at my website, which could be too powerful and feature-rich for iPad, iPhone, tablet or other portable devices to handle properly or adequately.

    May you have a wonderful festive season as we approach 2021!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. I must admit, that I’ve never really thought of marbles as art glass, but obviously, they qualify. I didn’t play marbles as a child, so I really didn’t know much about them. However, your interesting and very complete post about marbles, their history, as well as manufacture was very interesting. Have a fun, safe and healthy holiday, and all the best for a successful New Year. ~James

  12. When I view these lovely images, I sense that his ‘intentions’ are to share his joy of the gift of sight.

    A reaction to aspartame rendered me almost blind for 24 hours, and it was a true gift for my vision to return. The doctors said that usually when one loses vision, it does not return. But the larger part of that gift was to never take for granted my gift of sight – and the ability to see colors (my sons are red/green color deficient) — So with my own experience, I view these explosions of color as extensions of his own joy and gratitude for the gift of sight.

    As for the joy of seeing the full spectrum of colors, I sometimes wonder if there are a zillion other colors out there that the human eye cannot see – the same way that my sons don’t see hues of red and green… Can you imagine what it would be like to suddenly see colors you’ve never dreamed existed?!!

    Ah, the imagination of an artist!

    1. Lisa, I should have known that if there was anyone who could appreciate Chihuly’s palette of colors it would be you. You colorful paintings and murals are a study in bright colors that enliven the world. I’m sure that you can appreciate the joy he must feel, first for being able to see after his terrible accident, and second for being able to work with such joyous brightness on a daily basis. He’s a unique talent who has surrounded himself with like minds, and we are all the beneficiaries.

      Take care of yourself and have a happy and healthy holiday. ~James

  13. I almost spewed my coffee reading your line ‘I don’t have to worry about all this artsy-fartsy business’. Ha! I have long admire Chihuly’s art and I have never once tried to imagine what the artist is conveying. I did not know about his loss of vision in one eye. How tragic and yet wonderful that he has found a way for his art to continue through the hands of others.
    Happy holidays to both of you. May 2021 bring brighter days.

    1. Sue, I knew that readers like you would appreciate a good turn of phrase. 🙂 Chihuly may not be for everyone, but he’s an undisputed master at what he does, and his popularity (and the prices he demands) shows it.

      I hope that you, Dave, and the family are all well and in place for a glorious holiday. ~James

    1. Thanks Kathleen. Walking distance to the NOLA Botanical Garden? Very cool. We lived in New Orleans for a couple of years and it imprinted on us for our lives. Tourists love the place for obvious reasons, but honestly, it’s hard to explain the real, day-to-day appeal until you live there. And places like the Botanical Garden are one of the reasons. Take care, be well, and have a wonderful holiday. ~James

  14. Thank you for introducing me to Chihuly’s work. It is magnificent. His style looks familiar. I wonder if I might have seen some of his art in Las Vegas? Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

    1. Caroline, you may recognize his work from the ceiling directly above the check-in lobby at the Bellagio. Right before the Pandemic shutdown, we took a short trip to Vegas and sat directly under this piece. Have a safe, healthy, and relaxing holiday and all the best for a great New Year. ~James

  15. WOW! this is some beautiful art and glad to have seen your work here. Would love to combine glass design to the electronics I’m working with. Just starting down this path and seeing if blogging and collaborating will bring my abilities to the next level as well.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Your idea of combining electronics and glass sounds like a worthy and challenging endeavor. The temperatures and gear necessary for working in glass make it a formidable task, but why not? Best of luck in your projects. ~James

    1. I remember this post Jean, and in fact, made a comment. Thanks for the reminder, the photography is great. Chihuly’s work is wonderful and I’m envious of your living so close to his studio. All the best for a healthy and safe 2021. ~James

    1. Alison, we never miss an opportunity to see Chihuly’s work, and luckily, he’s become even more prolific. His exhibits are scattered in museums and other buildings all over so you might be able to find one, and I hope you can. All the best to you for a happy and healthy 2021. ~James

  16. Hey James and Terri
    This post was excellent and I love Chihuly and the featured class art
    I watched the documentary about his early days and he is inspiring
    So is Gallivance and wishing you both a happy new year

    1. Thanks Yvette. I watched one of his videos at an exhibit once and was truly amazed. In addition to being very creative, he and his team have the ability to be perform under pressure, because once the process starts, there’s no stopping – an interesting juxtaposition of talents. All the best to you for a better year in 2021. ~James

  17. I find it amazing he developed a team to continue his artistry. I doubt there are many artists with such a passion for their work they are willing to allow someone else to fulfill their vision. I’ve seen several of his pieces and never cease top be awed.

    1. Laura, I’m sure there are other creative types who generate ideas and let others fabricate their work, fashion designers come to mind. But I’m sure it takes an unusual set of talents to pull it off. I suspect that most artists have very specific ideas about what they’re trying to achieve, and letting someone else take the reins must be tough. But personally, I love his work and can’t get enough of it. ~James

    1. Karen, we’ve seen Chihuly exhibits large and small, and have never been disappointed. It’s wonderful that his work fits just as well in a garden as a fancy museum. All the best to you for a happy and healthy 2021. ~James

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s