Glass oeuvres, blowing-up with colours

It is with reason that Utterly Breathtaking is both the name and quality of the colourful glass exhibition featuring artist Dale Chihuly.

Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, took The Concordian through the exhibit currently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), pointing out diverse installations and eye-popping colours.

“Chihuly is an artist with specific ideas in mind,” said Charbonneau as she pointed at mandarin orange glass vases. “He came here and knew exactly what the exhibit should look like.”

The MMFA exhibit features eight of Chihuly’s installations, with an extra one set up outside.

“Chihuly is interested in nature, in water, and in the west coast,” said Charbonneau. “He is influenced by a multitude of artists, such as Warhol and pop artists, but he has his own distinctive style.”

Having worked at the Venice-based Murano glass company, Venini, Chihuly definitively knows how to manipulate glass. Big time.

Chihuly’s installations are mesmerizing products of fine quality where colours vie for attention. By the time you amble your way through, life doesn’t look that drab anymore.

“Chihuly likes to work in comparisons,” said Charbonneau as she weaved through the installations. “He likes to point out how light can be reflected and how to play around with contrasts.”

One installation in particular showcases Charbonneau’s statement. Blue-rimmed rimmels that faintly resemble flowers are lined up against a white wall, emphasizing the cobalt blues and sun yellows of the rimmels.

Another installation showcased the brilliance of turquoise. One hundred and twenty tall turquoise reeds were set up on tree limbs, demonstrating the vibrancy of one single colour.

Charbonneau led The Concordian to a special room, where a mind-boggling amount of vases were placed above the ceiling – also made of glass. Aboriginal glass baskets, puttis, glass starfish and bowls were placed disorderly one on top of another. “Chihuly likes to pinpoint and question the fragility of glass … [which is why] we get an over-abundance of glass objects in this room ” said Charbonneau.

Another room is full of gigantic chandelier-types, each measuring up to 12 feet tall. Charbonneau pointed to a fire truck-red chandelier that seems to have grown numerous tentacles. “That sculpture has a funny story. Chihuly made the object in France, but it capsized and fell in the water as it crossed over. So Chihuly made another one, just for us. Red is one of the hardest colours to work with when it comes down to glass, so we were grateful,” said Charbonneau.

Another installation resembles a garden. “Chihuly’s mother was a gardener, and Chihuly loves gardens, so he made this glass exhibit that calls to mind a garden.”

The “Macchia Forest” installation is imbued with over 300 colours and large glass bowls speckled with gold and silver. “The colours are crazy at this installation,” noted Charbonneau. “We are literally immersed in a glass forest.”

Overall, Charbonneau was pleased with the reception of the installations. “People love the exhibit. So far we have had 200,000 visitors.”

Perhaps the best way to describe Chihuly’s vision is to use his words, quoted from The Art of Dale Chihuly, by Timothy Anglin Burgard. “I thought it was the hot glass that was miraculous, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.”

Utterly Breathtaking has been extended at the MMFA until Oct. 27. For more information, visit



Related Posts