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Everything Under the Sun

The magical glow of pure color.
Dale Chihuly (American), <i>Sunburst</i>, 1999, blown glass, neon, metal armature
zoom Dale Chihuly (American), Sunburst, 1999, blown glass, neon, metal armature


The Seattle artist Dale Chihuly (chih-HOO-lee) is enchanted by color. Glass, he feels, is the best material for showing off color. Light passing through glass brings colors to life, whether in a bottle on a windowsill, a stained-glass window, or one of Chihuly’s fantastic creations.

Chihuly has been combining color, light, and glass in unexpected ways since the 1960s. In the 1990s he began playing with a centuries-old form, the glass chandelier. In this example, more than 1,000 pieces of yellow glass, each one blown by hand, surround a core of red neon light. Weighing more than 3,000 pounds, the chandelier hanging high overhead seems to defy gravity. A round ball of glowing warmth, with curls shooting off like solar flares, this is more than a mere light fixture.

Chihuly titled this chandelier Sunburst. Usually he keeps his titles vague, because he wants people to make their own connections with what they see. But the sun may have special meaning for Chihuly. He often remarks that his love of color may have its roots in cherished childhood memories. Every day at dusk, he and his mother took a walk to admire the colors of the sky as the sun set over the waters of Puget Sound.

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1. Each of the glass pieces of the chandelier was blown individually.
2. More than 100 feet of neon tubing at the center of the chandelier produce a red glow.
3. Chihuly’s ideas for his creations in glass begin as colorful paintings.


May 2005