Sculpture & Carvings
Dale Chihuly Super Rare Early 1978 Basket Signed Large Glass Sculpture
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Medium: Blown glass
Signed and dated 1978
Size: 6 1/2" x 7 3/4"
Condition: The piece is in mint condition. Slight bubbling throughout from all created in the process.
A very early 1978 basket in earth tone brown with yellow shards wrapping the basket. Chihuly first started experimenting with this additional colors and designs on his glass in 1975. After they had blown the form the would lay down different color shards of glass on a steel table top. They would roll the heated molten glass over the shards to infuse them into the bowl. This piece is a one of kind bowl and a very rare opportunity to own one of his earliest pieces. The first person to meet our bottom will take this extremely rare and beautiful Chihuly basket.
About the Chihuly Navajo Basket Series
Chihuly’s second major series, the Baskets, was inspired by a 1977 visit with James Carpenter and Italo Scanga to the History Museum at the Washington State Historical Society in his hometown of Tacoma. Viewing the museum’s collection of Northwest Coast Indian baskets, Chihuly was struck by their organic forms and pliable yet strong structures, and by the way in which their symmetrical forms had been distorted while stacked together for storage.53 Chihuly had acquired his first Native American basket in 1970, and Carpenter had started collecting Northwest Coast Indian baskets during the summer of Pilchuck’s founding in 1971.54 As a native of the Northwest and a former textile artist, Chihuly was exceptionally receptive to the history and aesthetics of these traditional fiber containers.
Chihuly’s First Baskets installation of 1977 (fig. 11) at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion paid tribute to his magical first encounter with the basket collection at the History Museum. These baskets of folded glass replicated the effects of weight, gravity, and time on their prototypes, while simultaneously transcending these forces by being rendered in a permanent medium. Chihuly’s Black Set (fig. 12) of 1980 recalls the luminous blackware pottery (fig. 13) created by Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. Modeling her work on archaeological prototypes, Martinez transformed modern blackware into a marketable commodity whose renewed popularity in the 1960s and 1970s made her the most famous Native American artist and a cultural icon.
Chihuly’s artistic embrace of Navajo blankets, Northwest Coast baskets, and Pueblo pottery can be viewed within a broader cultural context. These objects were among the first Native American crafts to be appreciated and actively collected for their aesthetic qualities in the late nineteenth century. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s “Indian Basket” Lamp (fig. 14), like Chihuly’s later Navajo Blanket Cylinders, fused fiber motifs and the glass medium to capitalize on this interest. These cultures appeared to preserve unbroken traditions of mythology, spirituality, communal responsibility, environmental sensitivity, and artistic creation, and thus they seemed to provide modern Euro-American viewers—and artists—with access to the roots of a collective past.
Maturing as an artist during this peak period of interest in Native American cultures, Chihuly embraced their objects both as an artist and as a collector. He later enshrined both the sources of his inspiration and the resulting creations in the “Indian Room” installation (fig. 15) of his Seattle “Boathouse” studio, which houses four hundred trade blankets by Pendleton and other makers, seventeen Navajo Blanket Cylinders, eighty-three Native American baskets, nineteen glass Baskets, forty-four framed photogravures of Indian women from Edward S. Curtis’s folio, The North American Indian, an Algonquin birchbark canoe, and a 1915 Indian Twin motorcycle.56 Fittingly, given the communal philosophy that Chihuly implemented both at Pilchuck and in his studio, the wood post-and-plank architecture of the “Indian Room” recalls another type of communal gathering place—the Native American longhouse.
Ironically, while many Navajo blankets, Northwest Coast baskets, and pueblo pots were modeled on historical antecedents, their forms, colors, and content often were influenced by Euro-American patronage and by their marketing as commodities within the context of the tourist industry. Chihuly’s Pendleton blankets, Curtis photogravures, and Indian motorcycle reveal that he values not only original Native American objects but also objects that have been inspired by these cultures—like his own Navajo Blanket Cylinders and Baskets.58 Chihuly’s defining aesthetic of cultural appropriation, fusion, and hybridity is epitomized by the “Indian Room,” which reveals his ability to knit together culturally diverse objects and ideas into a unified whole.