Monday, December 24, 2007

That's an expensive wastebasket

As I mentioned, the Milwaukee art museum has a fantastic Chihuly installation (and a mammoth Calder mobile, with circles the size of auto tires, but I don't really go crazy for those.) Apparently, these museum pieces are the most famous Chihulys, but I'm more familiar with the wavy plate sculptures that mimic natural forms. The museum has one of those as well.

I like glasswork, and Washington state is definitely the hub of American glass artisans right now, partly because of the available sand variety, but also, I'm told, because of tax breaks and so forth that have driven many artists north from Arizona. Everyone's other favorite hub is Venice, of course. My uninformed perception is that the Washington work tends to be more sculptures and Venice is more towards houseware and crafts, but no doubt there's plenty of both in either side.

Dale Chihuly hit it big in the '70s, and his work is astronomically priced by now. Ironically, he can no longer blow glass himself, because he lost an eye in a car accident and the lack of depth perception is dangerous. However, he has a large and thriving studio in Tacoma.

I don't mind admitting that I first heard of him by name on Frasier, which after all is set in Seattle. Frasier has a big Chihuly bowl on his mantel. There's an episode where he juggles it for some reason (they used a replica, since the real thing was valued at about $30,000) and another where Daphne, who is compulsively eating, hides half a Twinkie in it. Frasier finds it and hands it to Martin, saying, "Dad, how many times do I have to tell you that my Chihuly is not a wastebasket?"

Beautiful stuff, anyway, even if unaffordable.

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