During the last week of the Chihuly exhibit’s stay in Phoenix, I took my daughter out of school so we could visit together one last time while the weather was gorgeous. She was ecstatic to skip classes and do an early morning trip to the botanical garden instead; not only did we get to see the gorgeous glass, but we had banana bread French toast together in the cafe by a fountain, and she got to bring her backpack full of fairy dolls.
I love Chihuly sculptures. I love the colors and the shapes, which always remind me of the sea and of the sun, clean pretty colors and undulating shapes, so lovely and yet with an undertone of menace, that speak to me in urgent crisp tones of what they show and what they don’t: Blue. Midnight Zone. High Beams. Medusa’s Hair. Snake Snarl. Icicle Daggers. Shattered Windshield. Fire. Ghosts. Hatttifatteners.
I even love that they’re mostly put together and installed by a team, not just by the artist, and not just because he’s old now, in his 70′s, but because these things are a complex collaboration — a grand twist of limbs and colors that was put together by twist of people. They’re too powerful and too fragile to be installed alone. I love that they come with spares, and if a part breaks, a new one – not even identical – can be installed. Art that changes like that further commits to its organic inspirations, like the ocean and like the sun, forever changing. (In addition to being financially saavy, and very practical, of course.)
Sometimes the garden has other sculptures, too, and those are interesting: Huge faces made of fruit and vegetables, odd sinuous forms, the huge bugs that I also saw in Chicago. Those make me exclaim, make me laugh, make me impressed, but only the Chihuly sculptures in the garden make my heart sing along to their colors. Only the Chihulies have me wishing “I want to come here every day, to soak these up into my soul, to absorb their shapes and shades into my mind so I can replay them later, just as they are here.”
No picture can really keep that feeling, but I took shot after shot, just like all of the other tourists desperate to grasp the fleeting moments, until I finally put the camera away and just allowed myself to enjoy looking with my eyes, remembering with my mind.
So we went one last time to enjoy their beauty and to smell the desert for a while.
I hope my daughter was able to soak up some of the beauty into her own spongy soul, too. I know she loved the waffles and was thrilled to play fairies with me all day, and maybe that was her magic on that cool morning. And to me, seeing her face smiling in the breeze, looking off into the distance thinking her own distant thoughts – that was even more bewitching than the glass. Because the words her sweet face summons are the real ones: Love. Mama. Me. You. Fairies.
If you get a chance to see the Chihuly sculptures in a garden near you, do it. Go and enjoy them! And bring someone you love.
P.S. “Hattifattener” – These are characters in the Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. According to the Moominstore website, “The Hattifatteners are silent beings that are forever wandering around in large herds. The only thing that interests them is reaching the horizon – and once they reach it, they continue on their journey.”
You can google them to see pictures! The books are really awesome – I highly recommend reading them, even if you never see a Chihuly sculpture. I read them as a child and I still love them.