I’m a klutz. I tend to trip and stumble and drop things on a regular basis. The closer to the ground I am, the safer I’ll stay. I guess it’s because my thoughts are always racing and my body just can’t keep pace?
When I find myself in a gift shop or museum surrounded by breakable objects, I try to move very slowly and strategically and I never pick anything up. I think the more solid objects like quartz tiles, marble, and stoneware would stand a fighting chance if I were to reach out and touch, but, unlike Roxie, I don’t toy with the fragility of glass.
Of course, I’m strangely drawn to these lovely objects of transparency like a moth to the flame. From the stained glass windows of churches and cathedrals to Waterford Crystal bowls, Italian Merano vases, Tiffany lamps and tiny Swarovski crystals, I’m enthralled.
I decided, once, to try and create a stained glass piece myself. It took me almost a year to complete, although it was not a very intricate design. A single blue rose in a green vase. (The inspiration came from Blue Roses, the name Jim gives Laura in Tennessee William’s Glass Menagerie.) My hands still bear the scars. It’s hanging in the front window. I haven’t dusted it in ages for fear it will break.
I’m in awe of artists who can work this medium and live to tell about it. Needless to say, I’d never attempt a class in glass blowing. High temperatures and sharp objects! I shudder to think about it. But I have sat at a safe distance, watching in fascination, as an artist takes a clump of hot, molten glass and pulls and twists and turns it like pliant taffy and then literally breathes life into it – resulting in the most exquisite piece of art.
My favorite Modern American glass artist is a man called Dale Chihuly. He studied and taught at Rhode Island School of Design in the 1960’s. Although I was not familiar with his work then (when he was right in my own back yard), I discovered the beauty of his glass sculptures in May of 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona in an exhibit entitled, Chihuly in the Desert.
Charley and I were welcomed at the entrance of the Desert Botanical Garden by three “Desert Towers” – Yellow-green glass sculptures rising up from the sand in the midst of cacti, palms and aloe. Inside the gardens were “Blue Sapphire Stars” which glistened in the sun by day and shone brightly when surrounded by lights playing off the glass swirls in the night. Orange feathered wings, graceful yellow swirls and straight red and purple spike bands co-inhabited the space comfortably with animals and wildflowers at their base.
The juxtaposition of gigantic glass works, sand and indigenous plants in the middle of a desert botanical garden was a concept I never would have imagined had we not spent the day walking along paths and finding them all coexisting as though it were a perfectly natural, every-day event.
We watched a video of how these colossal works of art are created and then transported to sites around the world – Chihuly Over Venice, Chihuli in the Light of Jerusalem, Chihuly at the Victoria and Albert. His art is in over 200 museum collections. Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Washington is a long-term exhibition at Seattle Center in Washington State.
You also can find his work in many public spaces. the Fiori del Como in the lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas; Mendota Wall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Chihuly at Union Station at the monorail in downtown Tacoma, Washington; The Red Reeds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are some of the many permanent installations of his works.
Charley and I were in St. Petersburg, Florida, a while ago. We spent the afternoon viewing the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center and then visited the Glass Studio and Hot Shop to watch as a glass blower created a graceful, lacey-edged violet vase. A 30-minute class was offered, but Charley quickly coaxed me on to the gift shop before I could sign up. The words “Glass” and “Hot” made us agree this was a wise decision.
My love of glass has its roots back in my childhood when I would go to the five and dime store and purchase small glass pieces as presents for my mother. She would put them on the window sills. I still have some of them and they remind me of her whenever they catch the light. I believe I love glass because it is so transparent.
I’ve been said to have the ability to see through people much as one can see through glass. My mother had this ability. She knew how to spot phonies and liars. Mom also was adept at seeing through the hard exteriors with which some people protect themselves and she was fully cognizant of and empathized with the intense vulnerability many people carried with them through life.
It’s Tuesday, already with the promise of being yet another week of uncertainty here in the U.S. and around the world. Many people are protesting peacefully and reacting positively to all of the callous cruelty being set upon us by leaders who are ignorant and self-absorbed. Citizens are becoming more aware of those around them who are suffering. They’re taking their responsibility to human kind more seriously than I have ever seen in my 68 years on this earth. Even more than after 9/11. We’ve come to the realization that it is not a time to close ourselves in but a time to open our hearts to those in need. It assuredly is no time to be silent.
“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political” (Olivia Laing).
“In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable…Isolation becomes loneliness.”(Hannah Arendt on “How Tyrannical Regimes Use Isolation as a Weapon of Oppression” in The Origins of Totalitarianism. )
Social media can be a real curse for me, but lately I see how it can be used to connect people and make them feel they are not alone, not isolated. It can be used to call out the lies, publish the truth, defy the bullies and to unify. Many of my friends on social media are tirelessly fighting against the “holes of oblivion” against the “post-factual politics”, against the “alternate truths” with their intelligence and the dissemination of facts. They are from all parts of the world. We are kindred spirits.
There is no better way to challenge the hatred being leveled at our fellow human beings than to stand up for them and to let them know we will protect them. In doing so, we protect ourselves.
I’ve been very fortunate in the people who have chosen to “Friend” and “Follow” me. I often visit their pages and blogs to reaffirm the fact that “…in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”(Anne Frank)
And so, I wish for all of you, a better day tomorrow and a peaceful week.
A Happy Valentines Day.