February 13, 2018
Located in the heart of St. Petersburg, the Morean Arts Center is made up of four separate attractions. The Chihuly Collection displays world-class glass art by master glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. Just across the street, the art in the Morean Galleries tends toward the modern and contemporary. Local artists are featured, and some of their art can be purchased in the shop. At the Glass Studio & Hot Shop behind the galleries, you can watch glass being blown by resident artists. Unusual glass art work is for sale in the glassware store. The final attraction, the Center for Clay, is all about pottery and is located in an old train station.
Morean Arts Center
Dale Chihuly is the most famous glass artist of our time. (The eye patch is a result of a car crash in 1976.) He is 76 years old (b. 1941) and gave up blowing his own glass several years ago, serving instead as the head of a creative team that includes glass blowers, installation experts and lighting designers, based at his Boathouse studio in Seattle.
“Dale Chihuly is most frequently lauded for revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement by expanding its original premise of the solitary artist working in a studio environment to encompass the notion of collaborative teams and a division of labor within the creative process. However, Chihuly’s contribution extends well beyond the boundaries both of this movement and even the field of glass: his achievements have influenced contemporary art in general. Chihuly’s practice of using teams has led to the development of complex, multipart sculptures of dramatic beauty that place him in the leadership role of moving blown glass out of the confines of the small, precious object and into the realm of large-scale contemporary sculpture. In fact, Chihuly deserves credit for establishing the blown glass form as an accepted vehicle for installation and environmental art beginning in the late twentieth century and continuing today.”
Sarah, Susan, Darlene, Marlene & Pauline at the entry to the Chihuly Collection
Gift Shop umbrellas
Gift shop art glass bowls
Marlene & Pauline in the gift shop
The artwork of Shayna Leib, glass artist, is featured in a small gallery preceding the Chihuly exhibits. Her inspiration comes from growing up by the Pacific Ocean on the central coast of California (FYI: The prices for her artwork were listed along with the art. They ranged from a one-panel piece, Flux, for $32,000 to a more complicated piece, Biochroma V, for $92,000. Malvinas wasn’t for sale.)
Shayna Leib - Two Seas
Shayna Leib - Sunset over the Tundra
Biochroma V (Size: 30” x 62” x 8” )
In another conservatory gallery, there is a series of nine multi-colored, flower-like forms placed on pedestals from 4 to 12 feet in height to create a “forest.” Chihuly calls the wavy bowls “Macchia,” literally “spotted or splashed with color.” The “Macchia Forest” sculptures (2004) use innovative techniques to layer many colors without allowing them to bleed together.
From the Italian for a “thousand flowers,” components of the Mille Fiori series (2010) resemble glass vegetation, such as antherium, reeds, cattails, cacti and ferns. Combined, these installations create a magical glass garden, displayed on a raised oval black platform that has a mirror-like surface. The size of this “garden” is 10 ½ x 33 ½ x 10 ½ feet.
Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier (2010)
His “chandelier” sculptures are Chihuly’s signature form. They consist of individually blown horns, spirals and other forms he calls feathers, stingers and goosenecks.
Close-up of chandelier
Verdant Green Ikebana with Emerald Leaf and 2 Stems (2002),
inspired by the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement
Venetian series - brilliantly-colored glasswork inspired by art deco Venetian glass from the 1920s and 30s
The 30-foot long Persian Ceiling (2008) has glass elements that cast color shadows as you walk beneath it.
Float Boat (2007)
Chihuly first started filling boats with blown glass objects in Finland in 1995. He was there for an exhibition when he noticed young boys filling their rowboats with glass pieces he'd been discarding into the river.
Persian Sunset Wall (2010)
Persian Sunset Wall (25 feet long)
Azul de Medianoche Chandelier (Midnight Blue Chandelier) 2004
in front of the Drawing Wall (2009)
White Seaform Set (2010) with black lip-wraps look as if they are being swept to and fro underwater.
Carnival Chandelier (2009)
Entrance to Morean Arts Center
The Hotshop Glass Studio is a large, semi-outdoor workspace with a chain-link fence wall that allows natural ventilation.
Gift shop art glass
Sarah in gift shop
The Hot Shop
Gift shop art glass
Sarah in gift shop
The Hot Shop
The forges are on one side of the room and seating for the audience is on the opposite side. The forge on the left heats the glass. The forge on the right (with an oven door handle) contains liquid clear glass. The technique “Hot Sculpting” is used when a solid metal rod gathers the molten glass from the furnace (on the right), and it is shaped with the use of special tools.
Glass artist at work
An assistant gives a running commentary as the artist molds the glass. It was very interesting because we didn’t know what the artist was making. We watched the various steps of glassmaking, but the final product was a surprise right up until the end of the demo. The “bubble” that the artist is working on has to be constantly heated in this oven (on the left) so that it can be molded into various shapes.
The “bubble” is at the end of the pole.
The artist is shaping the bubble.
The artist is “marbling” the bubble.
(Using a marble-topped surface to shape the bubble)
He is cutting the neck of the bubble.
Then he grabbed the small end of the bubble with tongs and curled the glass outward.
He is heating the bubble with a blow torch to keep the glass malleable.
The finished product was a striated conch shell.
Even though we watched every step of the process, seeing the final product was still a surprise--the artist worked with the molten glass in any number of ways, with different tools, and it seemed that he created something from nothing before our very eyes.
After the glassmaking demo, we had lunch at Trip’s, a very popular local diner.