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Color Icon: Dale Chihuly


By Jill Pilaroscia

More items for Color + Design

If ever there was an artist known for working with color, it’s Dale Chihuly.

His wild, extravagant sculptures push the limits of glass—that material we think of as fragile but utilitarian—until it seems weightless and plastic.

Born in 1941, Chihuly is an American glass sculptor who has spent years exploring, teaching, and expanding his field.

Jill Pilaroscia

He studied art, sculpture and interior design before heading off to Venice in 1968 to study glass as a Fulbright fellow.

He continued to blow glass himself, even after a car accident left him blind in one eye. He was injured by his pet material when he flew through the car windshield.

Years later, a shoulder injury left him unable to manage the equipment, and he had to hire assistants.

This stepping back—getting a view of the big picture—turned out favorably for the artist, as the complexity and grandeur of his pieces grew.

Chihuly Chihuly
Photos: Jerry Levy

Chihuly's style developed a maximalist revelry in both shape and color. His fantastical and organic pieces—like plants lured from a Dr. Seuss book—were allowed to grow huge and bulbous.

And with this scale came a change: from individual blown pieces to the creation of a community of glass pieces.

This sense of collective shape, of cumulative color, of superorganism, all expand glass from the one-off individuals of utilitarian or even craft-focused glass into the wider art conversation.

Chihuly Chihuly
Photos: Jerry Levy

Chihuly shows us that individual, distinct colors or shapes can be dropped in favor of environments of objects and gradients of colors.

We experience color and shape not as separate from their location. but as locations themselves. His work shows us that when we think about color. it can be in three-dimensional surround sound.

Sometimes, abandon leads to our greatest creative breakthroughs.


Jill Pilaroscia

“Life in Color” is co-authored by architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia (pictured), BFA, and creative writer Allison Serrell. Pilaroscia’s firm, Colour Studio Inc., is based in San Francisco. A fully accredited member of the International Association of Color Consultants, Pilaroscia writes and lectures widely on the art and science of color.



Tagged categories: Color; Colour Studio Inc.; Design; Glass

Comment from Dan Baribault, (2/4/2015, 6:48 PM)

His work on public display at the Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, WA, is one of the most colorful works with glass I've ever been witness.

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