A visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle

A visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle

One can not help but to be “overwhelmed with light and color” (in the very best way) when one is confronted with one of Chihuly’s large scale glass art installations. I, New England Wax member Willa Vennema, was most fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle a couple of years ago, and the visit was one of the most remarkable art experiences I have ever encountered. 

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way they have never experienced”


The museum has several distinct sections, beginning with a series of installations which are dramatically displayed on a high glossy black surface. I found this method of displaying Chihuly’s work to be the most dramatic and satisfying. There was nothing to distract or detract from the astounding sensual experience of viewing Chihuly’s work. So many colors, so much shine and reflective surfaces, such innovation! The two series that stood out for me in this first section were the dory boats filled with orbs, (those who know my work will smile) and the chandelier series, see both pictured below.

Chihuly has developed a repertoire of shapes that he uses over and over, such as orbs, spears or needle-like shapes, twisting snake-like shapes, and what he calls “macchia” (Italian for spot–referencing the dots he speckles these shapes with) which are reminiscent of a shell or flower head. These shapes become the vehicle for experimenting with form, color and line, and the fantastical arrangements of parts that result in such unique sculptures as one sees in the chandelier series. How in the world are these objects put together, and who would have the courage to do this work?

The centerpiece of the museum is the massive glass house, which contains a hanging piece in hues of orange and yellow. On the day I visited, as is often the case in Seattle, it was a grey day. The warm colors were a welcome site, and one can imagine how wonderful it would be to experience this sculpture many times in different weather, and at different times of day.

The last experience in the museum is the garden, where Chihuly’s work is set amongst living plants. One can meander around the paths, and find many interesting color pairings of plants and glass art. This was my sister’s favorite part of the museum, and while I appreciated the unique and unusual combinations of glass and natural plant life, I prefer each to shine on its own……

If you aren’t planning on visiting Seattle anytime soon, Chihuly’s website lists other places where he has installed his large scale glass works. There is also a detailed biography of his life and the evolution of his work.



Willa Vennema, New England Wax member