Even though I am a native New Yorker, I have only been to the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG) once in my life, and that was over 30 years ago. But there I was, driving up the west side highway, battling rush hour traffic to head to New York City’s most northern borough, the Bronx, where the NYBG is located. The special occasion was the glass sculptures of Chihuly Nights.
Dale Chihuly is a glass blowing virtuoso. He has elevated the decorative glass blowing art to its absolute limit. The Chihuly installation treats visitors to towering glass sculptures and neon tumbleweeds that meld perfectly in harmony with the NYBG’s landscaped gardens, trees, and ponds.
Dotted throughout the gardens were pockets of vivid colored organic glass shapes like the Red Reeds on Logs. The tall, spiky glass seemingly grows out of the locally-sourced logs, and the entire piece is reflected in a circular pool that was lit up for the special evening viewing.
Other pieces, like the Macchia Forest, again push the glass blowing art to its limit. Chihuly innovated a technique of using a thin layer of white to prevent vibrant colors from bleeding into each other. The Seattle-based artist also fused colored glass chips to the surface of these sculptures, giving them a spotted look and thus their name, Macchia, which means “spotted” in Italian.
The unseasonably warm weather in New York City (thank you global warming) encouraged visitors to walk around the large grounds while sipping on margaritas and wine. A live bluegrass band played by the main entrance while a single viola player was in another area serenading us while we viewed the paradoxically named Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower. Inspired by the shape of icicles from the frigid Pacific Northwest, the colors evoked images of a flame.
Go inside the Native Plant Garden, and you feel like you are in Chihuly’s fantasy wonderland with a white tower, pink trumpets, and cobalt-pink spears whose translucent nature left me in awe.
Whether you go for the special Chihuly Nights or during the day, if you are fortunate enough to catch this exhibition (which is on until the end of October), it is well worth the visit to the Bronx!
More information on the NYBG at https://www.nybg.org.
More information on the artist can be found here: http://www.chihuly.com/