After a day of pure gastronomic excess at Pike Place Market, it was time to discover the rest of what Seattle had to offer. We took the Seattle Monorail from the Downtown area to the Seattle Center, a large arts and entertainment centre that was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
The standout attraction around here is of course the iconic Space Needle, the 184m tall observation tower that dominates the Seattle skyline. Since we had already visited the Space Needle on our last visit to the city, we elected not to go up again.
Besides the Space Needle, the Seattle Center area is packed with quite a few museums worth checking out, such as the Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Pop Culture. The former in particular is the commissioner of the Sonic Bloom exhibit: five towering flower sculptures that snake up towards the sky, as though they were looking to harness the sun’s energy. Indeed, solar panels on the flowers’ faces absorb energy by day and allow the flowers to light up by night. Each individual flower also produces a humming noise if you walk up to its base.
I thought the Sonic Bloom captured perfectly the creative and forward-thinking energy of the Seattle Center area and the city at large.
After walking around for a bit, we eventually decided to visit the Glasshouse at Chihuly Garden & Glass, where the beautiful works of world-renowned glass artist and Washington native Dale Chihuly are on full display.
I was curious to check out these exhibits because I had noticed signs of Chihuly’s tremendous impact on this city everywhere I went. From the theme and artwork in our hotel to the endless stores along 1st Avenue near Pike Place Market that sold glass ornaments, the ambitious glass artist has definitely left his mark.
It just so happened that Chihuly’s works had also been exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto earlier this year. Sadly, I never got around to visiting before it ended, so I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to right that wrong. Admission was US$24.
I’ll let the pictures of the artwork speak for themselves, though I’m not sure photographs could do it justice.
The indoor exhibition inside the Glasshouse were followed by a walk through the magnificent Chihuly Gardens, where the splendour of the artist’s glass forms could be admired against the backdrop of the natural elements that inspired them. While his art has been exhibited in more than 200 collections worldwide, the Gardens are unique in showcasing Chihuly’s works in a natural outdoor setting.
There’s also a live glassblowing workshop on-site – complete with a full furnace – in which glassworkers ply their trade right in front of your nose. You get to see every step of the process from the insertion of the blowpipe to the shaping of every piece. It’s a fascinating watch.
The entire visit took about an hour and a half. For me, the exhibit was certainly one of the most original forms of artistic expression I’ve ever seen, and ranks up there for the outright best art exhibit. I was blown away at the splendour and beauty that Dale Chihuly was able to draw out of nothing more than sand, heat, and human breath. I admired how the artist was able to channel the element of surprise in his work, challenging his audience’s usual perceptions of the world around them.
The exhibit was eye-opening for me in the sense that it showed me how glass, something I had considered mundane, could hold such beauty. I came away thinking that beauty could be found so easily around us if we just took the time to look.
I also came away with a deep admiration of Chihuly as an artist and a practitioner of his passion. His glass sculptures are wide-ranging in their grandeur – from the smooth, slender forms of flower stalks to to the twisting representations of animals and ecosystems – and reflect a lifetime of perfecting his art. In my opinion, he has rightfully earned his status as a revered figure in glass art and one of the many great artistic influences of the Pacific Northwest.
To be perfectly honest with you, I was initially skeptical when Jessica had expressed interest in visiting the Chihuly Garden & Glass, and I had balked at the US$24 admission price. I can safely inform you that my skepticism was misplaced, and the hour and a half I spent with Chihuly left a great impression on me. Even if you aren’t that big on art (I certainly wasn’t), I think the Chihuly exhibit will resonate with you – I found that the departure from more “traditional” art exhibits helped me more deeply appreciate and interpret the glass forms. If you’re spending a few days in Seattle, the Chihuly Garden & Glass is definitively not to be missed.