About: Dale Chihuly

Chihuly, is known especially for his fine glass work and vibrantly colored original paintings, Dale Chihuly is one of the most famous modern American artists. While his glass work is what made him famous, Chihuly is truly a master of many mediums.  

An early interest in art beginning at a young age spurred Chihuly to pursue a long and varied artistic education. Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941 the artist grew up there and studies Interior Design at the nearby University of Washington. After his graduation he enrolled in the country first glass program at the University of Wisconsin. In 1968, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study glass blowing at the renowned Venini glass factory in Venice, Italy. A the Venini factory, Chihuly was exposed to the team approach to glass blowing that he would go on to incorporate throughout the rest of his career. He later went on to study and receive his second master’s degree from the widely respected Rhode Island School of Design. After his graduation, Chihuly was asked to create and head the school’s first glass department. During this time, he also maintained his Washington roots by beginning the Pilchuck glass school near Stanwood in 1971. It was here he first began significantly pushing the envelope of glass sculpture. He began creating the indoor and outdoor artistic installation which would later go on to become a hallmark of the artist’s work.

During 1971, Chihuly also opened his first exhibition in New York. The work showcased designs influenced by Navajo blanket patterns. The Native American population of the Northwest would go on to play a landmark role in Chihuly’s work, as he would also go on to create a series inspired by their basket work. This famous series known as Baskets and Cylinders was showcased in 1978 at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. After this exhibit, Dale Chihuly’s career really began to take off. By 1980, he was showcasing in installations, one man shows, and art exhibits around the world including ground breaking shows in Israel and Brazil. In 1983, Chihuly began using more color and abstract shapes in his glass work. His Seaforms were the first to showcase these new techniques. Throughout the 1980s, Chihuly’s glass work expanded both literally through its immense size, and figuratively through its new techniques.

Chihuly’s multitude of artistic experience and knowledge has made him able to combine elements of many disciplines to create a truly one of a kind aesthetic. The weaving technique he uses in many of his glass sculptures is taken from his earlier educator in interior design. Similarly, he also credits his interior design background in being able to conceptualize a three dimensional work and its relationship with the space it occupies. Since the artist experienced a shoulder injury in 1979 and is no longer able to blow glass himself, the artist’s experience in painting and drawing has aided him in showing his team of glassblowers his final vision. His drawings and paintings used in this process have become famous works of art that are prized among museums and collectors. Recently, the artist’s love of the outdoors and botany has propelled to a number of world famous garden and greenhouse installations. Most famous of these is his iconic “Glass House” he created in his home state of Washington.

The long and impressive career of Dale Chihuly has been characterized by his willingness to take influences from unexpected places. By training in a range of mediums, Chihuly is not only a great artist but a well-rounded one as well. His unique glass work entered him into the social consciousness, but his skill in other mediums as well as his ability to combine influences has set him apart and added diversity and longevity to his body of work.