the art of bodies in motion

Monday, September 15, 2014


A Reflection on:
The Art of Dale Chihuly in the Denver Botanic Gardens
June 14 - November 30, 2014

© Text and photos by Ann Moradian. All rights reserved.

Strolling through the Denver Botanic Gardens in August at noon might not always be the best idea. The sun can be brutal and unforgiving. It often feels like the desert begins in your own back yard. But this year Colorado had rain, and I think we hit the gardens in the midst of the most glorious week possible. Everything was a-bloom and a-blossom.

Not even to mention the Chihuly Exhibit! A riot of blown glass of all colors poking out, weaving through, nesting, preening, sprouting, flaring, pulsing…

… shimmering. By the time we turned the first corner on the path, everyone we met was beaming with delight. You couldn't help but smile at the beauty and the whimsy.

We passed alongside proper corridors of cut grass, with large classical vases gushing little white flowers. Strange red and yellow lily pads floated on a dark pool of water, partly hiding the reflection of a towering nest of opaque pink glass.

There were crowds of people, but they seemed to disappear in the silent cacophony of flowers and leaves and sunlight. Just a gentle breeze now and then wafting through, with an occasional burst of laughter or chatter -- more like the sound of birds than people.

I found myself marveling at the fine artistry at work almost everywhere -- the color combinations, the embrace of each garden as we weaved through the shifting life and landscapes -- even our pathways.

The Japanese Garden is the only place that felt a bit staid (unlike Portland's Japanese Garden, which is the best I have seen so far in the US). But Chihuly went to work here as well, with dozens of floating pods reflecting quietly on the water's surface. Variations in blue that deepen and lighten according to the shifting sky.

I was fascinated, again and again, by the reflections. This was multiplied tenfold by Chihuly's installations: the interplay of the art with the garden, the flowers, the terrain, the color of the sky and the light bouncing off of or seeping into the glass, the shadows caressing or looming over the layers below...

...and above all (or below all) the images cast on and through the water. It was a feast for the soul, as the eyes tried to take in everything all at once: the most obvious and tangible first, then surface reflections and shadows… then the layer beneath the water… The wind would ripple across the water, and everything came alive in its own strange dance.

We came upon "Monet's Garden", a masterpiece of sky and water, glass and plant life. I can imagine sitting here days on end, simply watching the surface of the water change with the shifting sky.

The Greek myth says that Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water, but for the first time I wonder if it might have been the sky floating by behind that entranced him so. As a new picture forms moment by moment, the flowers reach up to kiss the sky.

I have never seen this "Monet's Garden" before, but I can't imagine it without Chihuly's sumptuous green creations. Amidst his long blue tongues of glass (that move upward like storks) and purple rods (shooting skyward like pussy willows), it looks as if the roots of the infinite variety of lily pads are just within your reach.

As the sky darkened up, ready for the next release of the thunderheads, we ambled out. Still bubbling with color and light and life.

And to think -- we didn't even see it at night with the lights on!

Ann Moradian

For more information on the exhibit and the artist: