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See ICONIC Chihuly in the Desert

Dale Chihuly Neodymium Reeds, 2021 Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix © 2021 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. Photo by Nathaniel Willson

Dale Chihuly Neodymium Reeds at Desert Botanical Garden, Photo by Nathaniel Willson

The ICONIC glass artist Dale Chihuly pays tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Sonoran landscape in this dual Arizona exhibit.

Beneath a concrete and stone bridge, a flock of amber-hued, heron-like glass spires rise gracefully from a shallow pool. Nearby, a grove of scarlet glass reeds and plump spheres punctuate the lawn in front of a low-slung building, their red colors echoing the structure’s architectural elements.

The glass installations are by Dale Chihuly and can be seen at Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter compound in the Scottsdale, Arizona desert. The installations are part of “Chihuly in the Desert,” an exhibition that marks the first time the internationally renowned artist has set his glowing, otherworldly sculptures against Wright’s architectural masterpiece, which is a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and his approach to design have been an important influence on my artistic practice,” says Seattle-based Chihuly. “I’m excited to present my work against the inspiring architecture.”

Dale Chihulys Red Reeds and Niijima Floats at Taliesin West. Photograph by Andrew Pielage

Dale Chihulys Red Reeds and Niijima Floats at Taliesin West. Photo by Andrew Pielage.

The six installations at Taliesin West reflect Chihuly and Wright’s common influences, including a love of nature, Japanese and indigenous art, and an instinct for organic design that reflects the environment. One of Chihuly’s installations, set on a landscaped prow at the edge of the desert, recalls the elongated forms of saguaros and the fierce spikes of agaves, while another, displayed on a low table inside what was once Wright’s living room, is a crystalline ode to Native American basketry, something both men admired. 

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and his approach to design have been an important influence on my artistic practice,” says Seattle-based Chihuly. “I’m excited to present my work against the inspiring architecture.”

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But “Chihuly in the Desert” isn’t just at Taliesin West. The exhibition, which runs through June 19, 2022, has a second, larger location a few miles away at the Desert Botanical Garden, where 13 installations are nestled into the landscape and several smaller works are displayed inside a gallery building. 

Dale Chihuly Paintbrushes, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Photo by Nathaniel Willson

Dale Chihuly Paintbrushes at Desert Botanical Garden, Photo by Nathaniel Willson

It marks an unprecedented third time that the garden is featuring Chihuly’s art amidst its specimen cactus, mature desert trees and arid-region plants—and it’s not just a three-peat of the previous shows. This is all new, with brilliantly hued installations spread out along the Garden’s looping trails.

It’s no surprise that Chihuly’s colorful, organic works are popular with audiences in Arizona and around the world—the artist has exhibited in Venice, London, Jerusalem and countless spots in the United States, and his works are part of the permanent collection at museums like the Met and Smithsonian.

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Learning from traditional glass masters in Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia as a youth, Chihuly turned that knowledge upside down to create his own art. He influenced a generation of studio glass artists through his Pilchuck Glass School, located north of Seattle. Not bad for someone who originally thought he wanted to go into textile design.

But the desert—and both exhibit locales—are alluring to the 80-year-old artist. 

“I grew up surrounded by water in the Pacific Northwest,” Chihuly explains, “so working in deserts has a unique appeal. This opportunity to present my work in these two distinct environments is particularly interesting. It’s wonderful that these two Arizona organizations are working together to bring arts experiences to their communities.”

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