Bedazzled

Works that can be seen in “CHIHULY,” Dale Chilhuly’s exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden. Credit Photographs by Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Although fairly ubiquitous in Botanical Gardens and museum rotundas, Dale Chihuly’s colorful and primarily organically shaped glass installations add an intriguing juxtaposition with the spaces they inhabit. Despite his popularity, opinion varies whether his work enhances or detracts. Whichever camp you choose, there’s a fertile ground for conversation.

The single-word, all-caps title — “CHIHULY” — of a new show at the New York Botanical Garden conveys immediately exactly what visitors will be getting: vibrant glass sculptures in a familiar style, one that often recalls nature, and sometimes competes with it.

He started by weaving glass into tapestries but, eventually, the weaving part, once his primary technique, fell away.

“There is something about glass, one of the few materials that light goes through,” Mr. Chihuly said. “You’re looking at light itself.”

The shapes that Mr. Chihuly has spread to institutions worldwide remind many people of organic forms. But he has always maintained that copying nature has never been his goal. “I’m not conscious of mimicking,” he said. “I don’t study plant books. Glass wants to make forms like that, if you let it.” Continue reading

Corpse Flower Diaries

Photograph by Kathy Willens/AP

I first became aware of the amazing Amorphophallus titanum 4 years ago during a “bloom watch” of a Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouses specimen at Cornell University.  At the time the concept of a “Greenhouse Cam” was completely new to me, and I followed it, and the science behind the study of the plant, with fascination. Despite the rarity of the flower, a handful have bloomed within the past several years, the most recent being at the New York Botanical Garden.

All that said, the Corpse Flower by nature is the botanical version of a “comedic straight man” in the set up of story-based jokes. (For example, the scientific name means “giant misshapen phallus”.) Continue reading