Saturday, June 3, 2017


It's been over ten years since a major garden exhibit of Dale Chihuly's work has appeared on the American landscape and it couldn't have happened in a more picturesque and accommodating setting than the New York Botanical Gardens.
Pulling off an exhibit of this nature is not an easy task. Our neighborhood garden in Madison has tried for several years to pull of an illuminated artscape, unfortunately, not with great results but the New York Botanical Gardens has come up with a way to do it right.
First, and most obvious, is to hire an artist of the caliber of Dale Chihuly. His work has the resonance of greatness. He's a master glass blower and his pieces have become synonymous with his name.
Second, is having a setting that could feed off the artist's imagination. Each piece throughout the garden was designed specifically for the place it inhabits. The work wasn't created in a vacuum. It was created for the exact space it occupies in the garden
Third, is know how to execute pieces that are both dramatic in the sun, the shade and at night with perfect lighting
Fourth, is to accompany the event with music, entertainment and food that give visitors an excuse to spend money and time beyond walking the paths of the garden
The Chihuly exhibit runs from now until the end of October, 2017. The gardens are open every day except Monday. The evening events are on a schedule of Saturdays only April 29-June24, Thursdays July-August and then Thursdays-Saturdays September until the end of October. The nights are the best ticket. They run from 6:30-10:30. If you want to get the full effect come early so you can see the pieces in the daylight but stay until the sun has gone done and then retrace your steps, a glass of wine in hand, so you can see all the pieces once again under the lights.
Pick up a map when you enter. No matter when you go you have to pay. This garden isn't free. A little tip: get your ticket online. It saves standing in line at the Gardens where the line for on sight tickets can add another thirty minutes onto your visit
Without a map or my sheer determination I might have missed some of the pieces. I almost didn't enter the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. I didn't realize it was open until I saw couple try the door and walk inside. I thought I could walk through to the other side to see the pieces in the courtyard only to discover that the interior of the Conservatory held a whole slew of additional pieces.
Once past the entrance gate
you walk under a trio of hanging Chihuly pieces as you hand your entry ticket to the gatekeeper
Then I was immediately hit by the sounds of a mariachi band shaking its maracas mixed with the sounds of brass horns and the ivory and ebony keys of an accordion.
Through the amplified music I could see the garden's iconic clock lit like a prop from Alice in Wonderland
Just behind the clock was the first Chihuly piece, Red Reeds on Logs.
Tall red reeds of glass pierced the sky above and with their reflections the pond beneath
But it was once the sun descended that the illuminated beauty of the red reeds and logs took center stage at the initial hub of the garden.
If you go to the right of the red reeds down the lane past the children's garden you end up at a lazy pond tucked within the native plant section of the garden.
Floating on a wooden skiff are a bounty of captured glass buoys.
Glass orbs cupped in a wooden tray appear like a kid's marble collection on a gigantic scale.
Glass panels stand as a backdrop for the floating aquatic orb tableaux using the sun's natural light to form reflections on the water's surface and transition to a light show at night as artificial lights play with the colored panels
As visitors wandered the grounds during the special evening events there were surprises that weren't forewarned on any paper handout
Troupes of street performers also roamed the garden and we were lucky to catch this acrobatic dance group's performance that ran into the pavilion next to the pond and then ran off as quickly as their performance ended
It's hard to stroll through the Botanical Gardens without taking in the bucolic beauty that surrounds you every step of the way
From roses and rhododendrons
to conifers that might be just as at home if they were lining the Pacific Coast.
I took a refreshing walk though a stand of birches
The gardens provided a setting that even a little chipmunk could enjoy
All of this terminated in the Arthur and Janet Ross Conifer Arboretum with a piece Chihuly titled "Sapphire Star", a spherical burst of blue and white spears.
There's a grand European-esque approach to the Mertz Library and I'm not talking Fred and Ethel. The Library hosts a retrospective of Dale Chihuly's work.
The fountain in front of the neo-Renaissance style building was designed by Carl Tefft in 1905. It is titled the "Fountain of Life" and on its own it is pretty impressive but add Chihuly's "Blue Polyvitro Crystals" and you have competition for any of Rome's iconic fountains.
"The Fountain of Life" demanded a second look once the lights came one around eight-thirty and the sky had turned a deeper blue just before hitting the dark shades of midnight blue. That's when the crystals seem to explode from the water like giant chunks of ice.
Prior to getting to the Haupt Conservatory there are a series of formal gardens that required a little detour. Designed with geometrically cut boxwoods and potted fruit trees the formality of these gardens is a striking contrast to the more organic parts of the garden. You need to get to this one before the sun goes down. They don't light these gardens at night but even the absence of light can't dim the fragrance of these beautifully laid out perennial and herb gardens.
The Haupt Conservatory sits on the edge of the gardens, a Victorian glasshouse structure playing home to miles of exotic plants and much of the Chihuly exhibit.
The entrance to the Conservatory is where they've placed one of the show's most impressive pieces, an organic serpentine glowing ball of yellow and chartreuse wiggling arms
Once inside new pieces seem to grow out of the ponds
or bloom as part of the plant life throughout the Conservatory
The exhibit continues into the back of the Conservatory where lily ponds reflect the pieces of art doubling their effect. Getting to the Gardens isn't the easiest if you're not driving. From Manhattan it requires a subway and a bus but the effort is well worth it. Go!
Engagement Peonies, 2011
Brigitte Carnochan, photographer
Represented by Peter Fetterman Galleries

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