Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chihuly at the VMFA

Most of you know that I am a docent (a fancy word for 'tour guide') at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I've been doing this for a year so far, and I LOVE it. It's my most favorite thing I have ever done, I think. I only wish they paid me to do it.

One of the benefits is getting to see the traveling, banner exhibitions for free. I spent a bunch of time in the Egyptian mummy exhibit last fall, and I've seen the beautiful, breathtaking display of items from the period of Indian maharajas. This season, our museum has put on a huge exhibit of the work of Dale Chihuly. As an amateur glass artist, I adore any kind of glasswork, but especially glassblowing. Chihuly's work is stunning, bright, colorful, and imaginative, and this exhibit is a wonderful showcase. I especially love that he created a couple of works especially for installation at the VMFA -- the 'Blue Ridge Chandelier', and 'Red Reeds'. Really, I hope the museum purchases the chandelier, but I don't think there are any plans to do that, unfortunately.

My oldest daughter has wanted to see the exhibition since it opened last fall. Noah has been studying the artist and his colorful works in preschool over the past few weeks, and he was all excited about it. having been to the exhibit myself, I knew all three kids would love it, but what gave me serious pause was the fact that most of the works are easily within the grasp of the attendees, literally. You can get right up close and personal with his pieces. The thought of my young, active kids in a room with pretty-much-priceless glass art was a little unnerving.

But, I've had worse ideas. So I arranged tickets for yesterday, a school holiday.

The museum was PACKED. I guess everyone else had the same idea, because there was nothing in particular on the schedule that I could tell, besides a couple of tour groups. When I got the tickets last week, they said the options for tickets were wide open. This exhibit has timed-entrance tickets so there wouldn't be too many people in the gallery at one time, so I had to choose a time. I'm glad I picked 10:30, because by the time we left at noon, it was jammed!

This is what you see when you walk into the exhibit space:

And this:

My rudimentary photography skills aren't terrible, and my point and shoot camera is decent, but I could not even do justice the the depth and range of COLOR in this room. It was unbelievable.

On the wall opposite all of the magnificence was a collection of his paintings. They were much more muted in color, but full of shape and interesting texture. The kids pointed out their favorites. Wren chose "all of them" as her favorites.

After this part of the exhibit, you walked under one of his best works, as far as I'm concerned. It is the 'Persian Ceiling', and there is a HUGE one in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. I've never been there, so I don't know what it looks like, beyond the photographs I've seen, but even the truncated version we have is stunning.

It's really cool to walk underneath all those pieces of glass, with the light pouring through them. It's kind of like being in a kaleidoscope!

We spotted a whole bunch of marine animals made in glass, like this starfish in the center of the photo:

More starfish, some urchins, and some squiggly cool-looking things:

And an octopus!

The light was just incredible in there!

We are so lucky to have this beautiful collection of artwork right here in our city. I could stand under that ceiling for hours -- in fact, I was thinking how cool it would be to lay down on the floor and look up at it all, and try to see the patterns, shapes, and objects he placed in there.

I think this is my favorite thing of all the pieces on exhibit.

After the Persian Ceiling, there was another huge room with his 'garden' of glass. His mother was a master horticulturist, and he did a lot of work inspired by her gardens. Another absolutely breathtaking display in here. There's just SO much to look at!

And a favorite of Kira's....the neon tumbleweed! This is an earlier work for Chihuly, and there is only the one in our exhibition, but it's still cool!

After we were done gazing at glass, I took the kids around to their favorite galleries -- the Gans silver collection, Africa, the Mellon Sporting Art collection, and ancient Egypt. Riding in the glass elevators is a particular source of joy for these guys!

On our way home, we stopped outside the cafe to see Chihuly's 'Red Reeds', the other installation he created specifically for the VMFA.

It was a terrific morning out with my kids, and I am so happy they could come and enjoy the artworks with me. Even better, I am so incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of all this fabulousness that is the VMFA. Becoming a docent there is about the best non-family related thing to happen to me in forever.

BTW, museum admission is free to the permanent collection, and the museum is open 365 days a year, from 10am to 5pm -- til 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. The Chihuly exhibition closes on February 10th, so get your tickets and go see it!

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