Glass melts at one-thousand-two-hundred degrees Celsius. People have shaped the runny, burning-hot, honey-like mass, into functional and artistic objects for over two thousand years. For a long time, glassblowing was done in large workshops. But in the nineteen-sixties, the introduction of small glassblowing furnaces made it possible for glassblowers to work alone in smaller spaces. And it was then that the artist who created the work you see here began to work with glass.
Dale Chihuly is one of the world’s greatest glass artists and is constantly expanding the frontiers of what is possible with glass. Inspired by the glassblowers in Venice, over the years he has developed installations consisting of organic shapes of thin, colour-saturated glass.
Traditional Native American baskets, with their asymmetrical woven shapes, inspired him to create his Baskets series. Baskets have been decorative and functional objects throughout human history.
In the nineteen-seventies, Chihuly was injured in a car accident. He lost his sight in one eye and stopped blowing glass himself. Instead, he uses chalk to draw shapes on the floor, and makes lively gestures to conduct his orchestra of glassblowers, who include some of the world’s leading practitioners.
In earlier times, glassblowing was a circus tradition, a magic act. And one can still think of it in this way today, with Chihuly and his glassblowers stretching glass to its breaking point and creating shapes and sizes through the use of strong lungs, a long blowpipe, courage and muscle-power.