Chihuly In The Garden: Glass Sculpture Amidst The Arizona Desert
Written by Jaillan Yehia
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona would be a lovely place to spend a day at any time of year, but on my visit I also had a chance to enjoy an amazing exhibition of glass installation art by renowned American sculptor Dale Chihuly set amongst the plants and cacti of this 55 acre desert site – this is Chihuly In The Garden…
The dry and dusty desert of Arizona isn’t the first place you might expect to find a world class garden – in fact it’s probably the last – but the arid trails of the Desert Botanical Garden are an enchanting showcase of what the garden describes as ‘the many wonders of the desert’.
There are over 50,000 types of plant in the gardens, including multiple varieties from the Sonoran Desert, notably the native, and fiercely protected, saguaro cactus (pronounced sa-war-ro) which produces the state flower of Arizona – a white bloom which lasts only during May and June.
Currently, but not for the first time, the DBG is working with Washington-born artist Dale Chihuly and hosting a selection of his installations in the garden until May 18th 2014.
The giant and brightly coloured glass artworks provide a beautiful juxtaposition among the mostly muted tones of the southwestern States’ desert landscape.
Chihuly is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world, in historic cities, museums and gardens and his work is currently on display at around 200 museums and galleries worldwide.
In 2008 the garden played host to an exhibition of his work entitled Chihuly: The Nature of Glass before working with him again on this year’s project.
The pieces are scattered around the maze of trails and walkways in the garden, some mimic the surroundings leaving visitors to look twice at what is natural material and what is man-made.
Others are bold and jaw-dropping works which call to mind the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the glass blown to resemble giant gobstoppers or lollipops with multicoloured swirls.
But perhaps the most enchanting are the installations on the water, both truly unexpected components within a desert environment.
The best time by far to visit is around 4pm, when you can enjoy the works in full daylight, watch the sun set over the landscape, then promenade around the pathways one more time…
… as dusk turns to dark the glass is illuminated to create even more atmospheric and dramatic shapes views, highlighting the surreal nature of the installations.
The Desert Botanical Garden is open daily 8-8.
Chihuly In The Garden runs until May 18th 2014. Tickets are on a timed entry basis – from 8-noon, noon-4, or 4-8. After dark tickets are also available from 8-midnight.
There is wifi, a restaurant and bar and an excellent gift shop on site.
Locals and frequent visitors can also buy DBG membership giving priority tickets and unlimited free entry plus access to 300 other gardens worldwide.
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