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A Glass Tribute

April 1, 2011
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He made his first splash in Israel in 1999–2000 when over a million people visited his million-dollar, year-long exhibit in Jerusalem at the Old City’s Tower of David Museum, termed as the most popular art exhibit in the history of the state. I was there and was totally captivated, as so many others, at the beauty created through glass, color, and light. According to Chihuly, “Color is one of the great properties of glass and is more intense in glass than any other material.” His Web site (www.chihuly.com), where stunning samples of his work are displayed on a black background, proves how true this is.

How does one transport such glass creations without breaking them? The 10,000 pieces of the 17-installation Jerusalem exhibit was shipped in ten 40-foot (12-meter) containers from five countries! Why did he choose Jerusalem? In his words, he wanted to make a tribute “to 4,000 years of glass making here in the Holy Land—and more important—a tribute to a unique site in a unique city in a unique country and at the unique time [the turn of the century].” But there was more to it than that.

As a disillusioned college student in the 1963, Chihuly traveled to Israel for a break from school and lived on a kibbutz (communal community), which had a huge impact on him. In his book, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, he writes: “I remember arriving at the kibbutzas a boy of 21 and leaving a man, just a few short months later. Before Lehav my life was more about having fun, and after Lehav, I wanted to make some sort of contribution to society—I discovered there was more to life than having a good time. It’s difficult to explain how this change came about, but it had a lot to do with going out on border patrol during the night with guys my own age who had more responsibility and maturity than adults twice their age in the States. After the kibbutzexperience, my life would never be the same.”

To read just a brief chronology of this 70-year-old artist’s life underlines, in bold, how extraordinary he is. In the 1960s, he earned several degrees, established a glass program in a school where he taught for 11 years, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, and traveled in Europe extensively. In 1971, he cofounded Pilchuck Glass School, which today hosts more than 500 students and artists each summer, and in 1986, he became one of four Americans to have a one-person exhibition in the Louvre in Paris. The grants, awards, and honorary doctorates he’s earned are too numerous to list here.

Looking back over the past 44 years since he blew his first glass bubble, Chihuly sums up his life’s work this way: “I have spent my life as an explorer searching for new ways to use glass and glassblowing to make forms and colors and installations that no one has ever created before—that’s what I love to do.”

Source: By Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor

Photo Credit: Photos by Isranet

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