After circling the stand once more, Mitchell Burdett found a place for a 2-foot amber glass tendril, piece by piece turning five plain metal frames into vibrant, sea creature-inspired glass sculptures.
The glass tendril, one of hundreds Burdett’s team is unpacking and assembling for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture’s newest exhibit, is only a fraction of one of glassblowing artist Dale Chihuly’s most iconic installations, the Laguna Murano Chandelier.
Burdett, chief arts coordinator for Denny Park Fine Arts, said the company has been assembling Chihuly installations for about a decade. The Laguna Murano Chandelier, a collaboration between Chihuly and renowned Italian artists Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto, looks slightly different every time it is built, he said.
Installers have been trained to safely handle blown glass and build the installation the way Chihuly intended, he said, but the individual glass pieces aren’t numbered, so no two art shows are the same.
“It’s a super organic process,” Burdett said Tuesday. “You kind of try to have some direction and an idea of what you want it to look like. You work with the pieces. It may not fit somewhere and find a home somewhere else. You have to let the glass talk to you.”
He said Chihuly is one of the major names in the American glass movement and the chandelier, which was crafted alongside the Italian artists in 1996, marks a breakthrough moment in the glass art movement.
Chihuly has appeared at Gonzaga University for an exhibit in the past, where a permanent 2,000-pound red chandelier he crafted in 1995 hangs above other works of his in the Jundt Art Museum.
“The Luminous: Dale Chihuly and the Studio Glass Movement” show is the first completely glass gallery the MAC has shown, Executive Director Wesley Jessup said. The show will feature pieces from 33 international glass artists provided by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma as well as private collectors.
Jessup said building a glass gallery is more complex than other art medium installations and the gallery will take a team of five about three days to install.
He said the gallery showcases a wide array of styles, which use color, shape, texture and light in a way no other sculpture medium does.
“It’s amazing how beautiful some of the pieces are; that’s unique to glass,” he said. “You can’t do that with marble, bronze, wood.”
The show will run from Saturday through June 23.
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