Posted on July 26th, 2013
“Hovering over me was the Chihuly chandelier. Chihulys are the pigeons of Seattle. They’re everywhere and even if they don’t get in your way, you can’t help but build up a kind of antipathy toward them.” –Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette
convergence of portents deposited us on the doorstep of the Dale Chihuly exhibit in Oklahoma City.
Before May, I had no idea who the man was. Then an image of this amazing, weird, glowing thing showed up on my phone, a picture taken by my mother at some place called the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum on her trip to Seattle.
‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘Chihuly. That’s a weird name.’
And then I forgot all about it.
But Chihuly wasn’t done with me yet. He surfaced next in Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette, a book my friend had recommended—by now the name was starting to look familiar—his work hovering over the brilliant, depressed protagonist as she napped in a pharmacy window. Next, I recognized him purely from author Semple’s description of him in the book as Scott and I happened upon a documentary about his life and work on one of our precious few channels. So last month, when another friend told me that we should consider making the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Chihuly exhibit a destination during our night there, I knew it was time for us to meet.
Chihuly’s art is pervasive at the museum, home to the largest permanent exhibit of the artist’s work anywhere. Chihuly’s wild glass, rendered in bulbs and balls, tulips and twisting balloons, spills out of the ongoing Illuminations exhibit, however, living in all corners of the museum. A tower of the artist’s glass greets you in the lobby, growing 20 feet toward the sky. In an adjacent hallway, a Chihuly chandelier drips from the ceiling, clear and bubbling and enormous.
A museum guard told us that visitors are invited to lie down on the floor beneath one particular display of Chihuly glass, scattered and stacked on a Plexiglas barrier overhead. Each one of us took a turn, staring up at a piece of the glowing ceiling, picking out Chihuly angels where they peeked out from among the disparate shapes and colors.
“I feel like I’m in church,” Marcel said.
I understood. It was the light filtering through all of those colors and shapes. But art that makes room for the sacred wherever you find it is worth the trip.∗