Monday, May 31, 2010

Chihuly at Meijer Gardens

It's no secret I love the work of Dale Chihuly and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, so I jumped at the chance when Meijer's PR guru, Amy Sawade, offered me a behind-the-scenes tour. My local friend and fellow master gardener Amy accompanied me, and we met Diane of The Garden of Live Flowers there.

The exhibit Chihuly: A New Eden features many works of art in 15 indoor and outdoor locations. The pieces are on loan and were shipped to and assembled at Meijer to fit the unique landscape. The exhibit runs through September 30.

I like that the title New Eden reflects that the pieces have gone in new directions beyond the traditional Chihuly forms, both in materials and settings. In other exhibits I've visited, all pieces were made of glass and each piece was set in natural surroundings, so the organic and inorganic melded and blended, with complementary or contrasting colors and forms. The plants and the art were one.

In addition to those kinds of pieces, Meijer also had new creations made of polyvitro and neon, and pieces that stood on their own as centerpieces.

The Lime Crystal Tower in the Lower Falls is made of polyvitro, a polymer plastic that is much lighter than glass, which Chihuly developed to create very large pieces. The pieces are still blown and shaped in the same manner as glass pieces. The first photo also shows my favorite permanent piece at Meijer (right, Liz?!), Aria by Alexander Liberman.

I've never been wild about pale pink, but I very much liked the Rose Crystal Tower in the Volunteer Tribute Garden. The pale color of this second polyvitro tower allows the sun to really shine through and sparkle, and it matched the glass of the conservatory very well.

Sometimes my macro setting actually totally rocks it.

These Blue Polyvitro Crystals were floating in the Wetlands. I like how they look like mini icebergs. We also heard green frogs calling in this pond.

A few pieces were also made of neon. Three neon Tumbleweeds were hanging from the conservatory ceiling. I imagine they look especially impressive when turned on at dusk. I thought this bright pink one with the black tips should could just as easily be called Flamingo.

Another neon piece was Saffron Tower, here with Mirage I & II by Elisabeth Frink and Plantoir by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. I bet Saffron stands out even more at night!

Moving on to the Sculpture Park Waterfall and more traditional Chihuly pieces, these Niijima Floats added wonderful color and depth to the scene.

I just love the colors on this Niijima Float.

In my last visit, I somehow missed Summer Dance by Barbara Hepworth in the permanent collection and was bound to catch it this time. Here is the golf cart that transported us that hot day, through the back of Dance.

The Groves and Hekman Pond had some wonderful displays, including Yellow Boat. The boat is one of the first Chihuly forms I saw and I always like that setting.

Here are some of the boat pieces close up. The black ones are Belugas.

On the other side of the pond from the boat is this stunning "blue allium." I would have hugged it had I been able to get close enough without falling in the water or getting poked in the eye. It is orders of magnitude more striking in person, and its true name is Blue Moon.

The same pond also contains many Walla Wallas, with B-Tree II by Kenneth Snelson to the right. As near as I can tell, Walla Wallas have curly-cue tops (kind of like Hershey's Kisses), whereas Niijima Floats do not, though both are displayed on water.

The Red Reeds on the lawn alongside the Amphitheater Hillside Main Tram Path were striking, arranged in Vs which is impossible to tell from the photo.

The Yellow Reeds in the Woodland Shade Garden create an entirely different mood. Note they are inserted into tree trunks.

Eelglass in the Lena Meijer Children's Garden.

I was amused by this little door through which kids can enter. Meijer Amy thought it would be funny for one of us to pose with it, and "our" Amy did. (You knew I'd use this, right, Amy?!)

A lot of cool pieces were interspersed in the English Perennial and Bulb Garden. These blue and pink Herons look right at home there.

Someone must have done something uncouth there, though, because the grass paths that led up to most of the pieces were roped off. These wonderful Trumpets (did you hear a Hoo?) were visible only from inside through windows... was this octopus (technically, probably Herons).

The Citron Green and Red Tower really stands out from a distance and is one of the first pieces you see when you enter the gardens. I was kind of wondering why it was called green...

...until I walked up closer to it. It was one of the handful of pieces you could get up close & personal with.

Another so-close-you-could-but-don't!-touch-it piece was Summer Sun in the Cultural Commons.

It's really obvious how it was named.

I could have looked at it for hours. The pieces were so intricate and detailed.

Polyvitro Chandelier was hanging on the ceiling of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. I like all the metallic colors. The conservatory also had more traditional glass pieces, set in with the tropical plants.

Cobalt blue glass is a personal favorite, and I loved how the sun lit up one of the pieces of the Basket Forest.

Here you can see that each Basket contains smaller pieces. And can you see how translucent the glass is, so the fern shows through it?

I loved these orange Persians so much that I wanted to take one home, except that of course I had a tiny purse and the only place I have to float these is my bathtub stealing is wrong.

This orange Ikebana really fits into the tropical conservatory.

This Ikebana seems to be saying "Oh, so so close. Evil palm, I will reach you yet, buh ha ha ha!"

I love the Macchia bowls, one of my favorite Chihuly shapes and always so colorful.

I love how art and plants make me rethink things. I always think I love bold, bright, riotous colors, and yet I can think of dozens of pastel flowers I like. And while "pale yellow" in words does nothing for me, I adored how the colors of the bamboo and Macchia blend so wonderfully, while their textures provide contrast. Unexpectedly, it was one of my favorite vignettes in the whole exhibit.

If you're anywhere vaguely near Grand Rapids, Michigan, I strongly recommend you visit soon.

Check out an earlier post to see more sculptures permanently on display at Meijer.

Check out more Meijer photos in my Flickr album.

Special thanks to Amy Sawade for arranging our tour and lunch!


  1. Oh now you've gone and done it! I'm going to have to go back to Meijer again to see this! I'm a huge Chihuly fan, too. In case I don't make it, I'm sure glad you took so many pictures and shared them! Just beautiful!

  2. You knew I was going to read this and kick myself for not going this past weekend, didn't you, Monica? And seeing Diane again would have added to the fun. Oh well, I'm just going to have to pack up and make the drive to Grand Rapids sometime before the exhibit leaves.

    After seeing the Chihuly exhibit in Phoenix last year, I've become a big fan. Although a couple pieces here look familiar--I wonder if the Saffron Tower is the same piece that was displayed in Phoenix--I am just amazed by the sheer output of pieces by Chihuly. I think he had a "Blue Moon" in Phoenix, too, but it looked quite different. In fact, I think you could help in naming these, Monica--"Blue Allium" makes more sense to me. And "Tumbleweeds" does look more like a group of flamingos.

    What a gorgeous exhibit, and your photos are great, Monica! Thank you so much for sharing these with us.

  3. Hi Monica.....Chiculy is without doubt an amazing artist. I have to say, I struggle a little, with most of it.
    I suppose I am a little boring in my taste....and perhaps old fashioned.
    BUT I do love the allium and the tumbleweeds, I think they are both absolutely stunning...

    Loved the to look and learn.

  4. It was a really fun day, and I got spoiled by that golf cart and zipping by people who had to walk.

    Meijer Amy sure didn't know us very well because she didn't think I'd actually go through that little mouse door into the children's garden. The photo is actually cute. Just don't post any unflattering ones or I'll publish the one I took of you with a scrunchy face trying to figure out the perfect angle for another photo. :-)

  5. Now I KNOW I need to go back and wander through the installation. I took the tram the first time I saw the Chihulys. I need to use my feet the next time!

  6. Now I know I REALLY need to get to Cheekwood to see his work in person. Too neat!

  7. Wow those pieces are amazing, they can stand alone or blend in nicely with the surrounding gardens. :)

  8. OH my gosh, I want to see it in person so bad. I love his art. You did a great job photographing it. Thanks so much for sharing. I would love to crawl through the little people door too.

  9. Chihuly's work is just beyond amazing. Such a genius with shape and color. I have to admit those towering pieces make me so nervous. All that glass with no visible support:)

  10. Beautiful artwork and photography, Monica.

    I don't like pink but that one sculpture is amazing. Looks like a giant stick of rock candy.

    Sorry I missed this.

  11. That was so much fun! I visited Meijer Gardens a couple of years ago so I can envision where all of the pieces were. I'm especially impressed with the polyvitro pieces, probably because I think it's cool he's trying something different. I'm a huge fan of Chihuly's works and always try to see them if I can. This looks like another stunning winner. Thanks for the tour Monica!

  12. Amazing, Monica! I finally have a moment (now home) to view your stunning post ... Cobalt blue glass is a personal favorite of mine too! I'm delighted you so enjoyed this awesome weekend, dear friend. My thoughts were with you. Thanks for sharing ... your eye behind the lens, as you might say, 'rocks'!

  13. Thanks for showing us this wonderful selection, Monica. I am a huge Chihuly fan as well and appreciate the plastics used on some, but the glass it what does it for me. Thinking about breakage must give them nightmares. I love your captions, they should hire you to do the brochure! :-)

  14. Oh, heavens, Monica! I don't know where to start...I could spend an hour on each photo! Stunning, is all I can think of. What a fantastic place it must be. If ever I get the opportunity, would love to visit it. I just love the cobalt blue glass. It's my favorite;-)

  15. Ha ha - I thought I recognised Aria peeping over the top of the trees! :)

    There are so many beautiful pieces in this exhibition - I adore the blue allium, I love the floating spheres on the waterfall, I want to take the blue herons home with me, I want.......just about all of them! :)

  16. Monica: I so enjoyed this Chihuly exhibit! I saw many of these pices while in AZ a few years back. It is interesting how the pices fit in with that various gardens chosen!When I saw these many the same they were in a Deseret Botanical garden. I love the balls in the water...I saw them all in the boat.
    I have a pond small but worthy of placing a glass ball to float..humm!
    Many new pieces posted I;ve not seen. He is one with nature in how he creates!
    Thanks for this exhibition!

  17. Monica, It's a fantastic show~I would love to see it in person~Although, you're tour is wonderful~We have a smaller show going on in Nashville. It's Cheekwood's 50th anniversary and he has installations there, at the Frist Museum and as a backdrop/chandelier for the symphony. All wonderful~gail

  18. I occasionally get to Grand Rapids on biz, and was wondering if the Meijer garden was worth a visit. Looks like I'll be extending my next trip.....

  19. Oh, you dog! (Dogette? :) A behind the scenes tour. I am so very green with envy!! These photos are spectacular. What a blast of an exhibit. I hope you behaved yourself. I might have stolen something...

  20. That is amazing! I've never seen any pieces by this artist, and I'm totally in love. That allium would really fit well into my garden (though not in my purse, I guess...)

  21. Wow, the colors and details are awesome! I think I like the bowls the best.

  22. I'm sorry I missed this Monica. I'm a big Chihuly fan. Your photos are wonderful, and it looks like the day was lots of fun.