Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lost Inside Adorable Illusion and I Cannot Hide

I told you yesterday that every room at Franklin Park Conservatory has at least one piece of Chihuly glass in it.  I'm not exaggerating.  From the second you step into the lobby to buy your tickets, you can't help but be distracted by the twisty yellow flutes peeking out from the wall sconces, or the red and orange fans climbing up the far wall, or the explosive and curvy blue chandelier hanging just outside the Garden Cafe. 

Chihuly at the Conservatory premiered as an exhibit all the way back in 2003.  Intended to be just a temporary fixture, the exhibit increased visitation by nearly 182 percent, and in 2004, when the works were meant to be removed, the private, nonprofit support group Friends of the Conservatory made a bold move.  At a price of nearly 7 million dollars, the group purchased 3,000 of the glass pieces, almost the entire collection.  Now each exhibit has a permanent glass fixture adding a hint of fantasy to the atmosphere.

Tucked away behind renovating exhibits is the Hot Shop, another fixture carried over from the Chihuly days, where a nice young lady named Linda charms us all by blowing a pair of delicate, colorful bowls.  The open furnace in the corner glows orange, and we can practically see the heat spilling out onto the concrete.  On a day like this, I don't know how she can stand it.

Walking into each room is a bit like Christmas - where will the glass be this time?  What secret corner will it be tucked away into, just waiting for us to discover it.  In some areas, like the Himalayan Room, you'd miss it if you weren't paying attention - it's hidden in a cave ceiling, and the family behind us pushes right through without even a cursory look up.  They don't even seem to wonder why we've all stopped to take pictures.

In other rooms the pieces brazenly cry for attention.  In the Pacific Room, colorful globes float in a water fixture, nudged along by koi, while a huge, twisted, red and yellow blossom grows up through the center of the exhibit, demanding that you come and wonder just how all the pieces fit together.  Those ever present butterflies dart between the tubes, pausing only to rest on the delicate glass.  

If you've never seen a Chihuly piece, this is quiet a way to see them.  They aren't oppressive, they don't take away from the experience or distract you from the flowers; the pieces add a certain extra element, something indescribable, that might just say "This world is more fantastical than you had ever dreamed."  If anything, the glassworks enhance the natural beauty of a flower, because for as delicate as the pieces may be, a petal is softer, more fragile.  For as colorful as the glass is, the flowers are unmatched in their vibrancy.  As eye catching as the glasswork is, it truly is just an exciting supporting player to the floral stars of Franklin Park.

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