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Dale Chihuly (1941-)

King’s Blue Persian Set with Scarlet Lip Wrap, 1995

Donated by Richard G. Pepe, DO and Margaret V. Pepe, RN, Ph.D.

Materials: Blown glass (7 parts)

Location at Summa Health:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor lobby in front of Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Center for Breast Health.

About the art and artist

This work of sculptural blown glass is intended for viewing on a pedestal at about waist height so that the beholder can see from multiple angles and appreciate the undulant forms and contrasting jewel-toned colors, particularly the scarlet lip wrap emphasizing the shimmering edges of the form. This piece is one of the earlier successes in Dale Chihuly’s Persian series, which he describes as experiments in form as well as color. “Persians” were created in his shops with the assistance of many other skilled glassworkers, from the mid-1980’s through the early 2000’s. He chose the name because of its oriental associations, by which he meant not only the medieval Middle East but also Venice, which was a port of entry for so many ideas and objects from that part of the world.

Chihuly describes the particular technique for making the Persian forms: Molten glass is plunged into ribbed optical molds and then is blown out to create patterns of color in typically asymmetrical, layered shapes. Here you can hear the artist narrate the process of experimentation as it unfolds.

The smaller, “satellite” elements of this King’s Blue Persian Chihuly calls “tear catchers.” This romantic description is probably more poetic than historical; it refers to a recent practice of identifying elegant glass perfume containers as intended instead to catch the tears of mourners.

Acquiring a Chihuly is a high point for any collection, including Summa's. Chihuly is perhaps the most celebrated glass artist in the U.S. today, and his work comes into the Summa Health collection through the generosity of collectors Richard G. Pepe, DO and Margaret V. Pepe, RN, Ph.D. Chihuly is identified with Pilchuk Glass, which he co-founded near his native Seattle. However, you can find Chihuly glass art almost anywhere in the world. 

Chihuly was injured in an auto accident in 1976, losing sight in his left eye and sustaining permanent damage to his right ankle and foot. Given the essential role of vision in the artist’s concepts, plus the heavy lifting, coordinated choreography, and refined hand-eye movements for working with this beautiful but dangerous material, this could have been a serious deterrent to his career. But Chihuly was on a roll as a primary mover in the art-glass world and with his great energy and determination, resumed production, teaching, and inspiring other artists within months. Aspiring glass-makers and other artists from around the world come to work and study with him in ever-increasing numbers. 

Chihuly work at University of Akron (photo courtesy University of Akron)

Where you can see more of this artist’s work:

Chihuly’s website is a great way to learn more about this artist’s work and see it installed in various locations around the world. The video “Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum 2016” opens with a stunning group of lighted Persians similar to this one, as the artist walks through them.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art holds one of the largest collections of Chihuly’s works, as he has contributed many to their holdings over the past decades. Nearer to us at Summa Health, at the University of Akron, Chihuly created a work in transparent urethane, rather than glass. This 30’ tall sculpture, an assemblage of abstract forms, stands in front of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering on the UA campus. The material used — polymer, which Chihuly in about 1997 began to explore as another medium parallel to glass — deliberately refers to the historical and continuing importance of rubber and plastics research, development and manufacturing to the economy of Northeast Ohio. 

The healing arts at Summa Health


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