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Finding strength in fragility
Most people view glass as fragile, maybe even flimsy and certainly easily broken.
But where others see weakness, Dale Chihuly sees strength and, more importantly, the potential for beauty.
“There's something about glass that's very strong,” Chihuly said during a special invitation-only lecture last week at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
As a medium, glass has certainly had a mighty effect on Chihuly's life — and vice versa.
“Dale Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the studio glass movement,” said Elby Beal, chairman of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art's Board of Trustees. “His work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including 11 honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.”
With his multimedia lecture, Chihuly, 70, took museum guests on what Beal called a “world tour” of his prolific career, from Venice to Jerusalem to his home state of Washington. The lecture was part of the museum's ongoing commemoration of its 10th anniversary in its downtown home.
“His special exhibition for our opening 10 years ago ... represented the most comprehensive collection of his work. It was so magnificently received by all who visited the museum that (the late) Carolyn Hill, our beloved executive director, arranged for the purchase of what would become the strongest attraction of our permanent collection,” Beal said.
“It continues its awe-inspiring effect on all who enter the world of Dale Chihuly.”
Chihuly's hourlong lecture focused on a series of video clips showcasing some of his landmark international glass projects. The audience not only gasped at images of the skyscraping “Crystal Mountain” in Israel and the exotic, prismatic chandeliers hanging in Italy, but also at footage of Chihuly casually tossing elegant glass forms into a river.
“Well, I wasn't so sure if they'd break or not when I started throwing them in the water. But they didn't break,” said Chihuly, wearing a bright green shirt, black pants and blazer and black shoes speckled with colorful paint. “A lot of those pieces were very thin, but somehow it manages to take the shock.”