Sunday, January 29, 2012

ArtTrail #5 - Fire & Ice at the MOG

"Great sculpture is like music;
all you have to do is feel it."
Martin Blank

Among my goals for this new year, is to see and experience more of our "local" area - that being the greater Puget Sound. On a cool, gray, January day we visited the Tacoma Museum of Glass (MOG), which is the only glass museum west of the Mississippi devoted expressly to the medium of glass. The focus of the Collection is to showcase exemplary works of art created during the 20th and 21st centuries by artists from around the world.

True to the lumber legacy of this area, the signature design of the museum is a 90-foot-high cone, shaped like the smokestack of a wood-burning sawmill. The cone's workshop is used for advanced glassmaking and, even from a distance, you can tell it's something quite out of the ordinary...

The 70,000-square-foot building is linked to downtown by the 500-foot-long Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a pedestrian walkway that spans Interstate 705 and a rail line. Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native world renowned for his glass art, designed the glass and polymer artwork that decorates the bridge.

"We wanted something unique in the world,
something that is full of color
and offers a joyous experience
to passersby both night and day." 
Dale Chihuly

Here you enter a seemingly underwater world of glass shapes and forms - the Seaform Pavilion. This colorful ceiling is made of 2,364 objects from Chihuly's Seaform and Persian series. Placed on top of a fifty-by-twenty-foot plate-glass ceiling, the forms are suspended in midair and make dramatic use of natural light - very welcome on a gray Northwest day!

The turquoise Crystal Towers, rising forty feet above the deck, mark the center of the bridge and resemble giant swizzle sticks. The 63 large crystals in each tower are made from Polyvitro, a polyurethane material developed to withstand the elements. Illuminated from below, these magnificent forms glow at night, appearing as if chiseled from mountain peaks or frozen alpine lakes.

Approaching the front of the museum, Fluent Steps spans the entire length of the 210-foot-long Main Plaza reflecting pool.

This poetry in glass rises from water level to fifteen feet in height and consists of 754 individually hand-sculpted pieces.

Celebrating the many moods of water, this phenomenal sculpture was mostly created in the Museum’s Hot Shop during Martin Blank’s 45-day visiting artist residency in 2008.

The sculpture includes four individual islands of glass which capture the fluidity, light, motion, and transparency of water in clear glass. This project required the invention of new tools to handle the massive amounts of glass and a team of 41 artists, architects, and engineers to create and install the work.

"Water can be placid, sublime, and—in an instant—uncompromisingly raw and powerful.
It’s the vehicle for capturing light, motion, fluidity,
and transparency.
It’s the vehicle for life."
Martin Blank

The Hot Shop Amphitheater, housed in the 90-foot-tall stainless steel cone, includes a hot glass studio, cold glass studio, and accommodates over 200 visitors. The cone itself is 100 feet in diameter at its base and narrows to a 15-foot opening, all of which is necessary for the glass art being created in 2,400-degree ovens.

You are welcome to watch as long as you want as the Hot Shop team of artists demonstrate the fascinating process of creating works of art from molten glass. We were able to see close-ups of the artists' work, informative videos on the big screen overhead, learn as an interpreter explained the process, art, science and history of making glass. Questions were welcomed and readily answered.

As if this were not enough, the Museum offers excellent temporary exhibitions, permanent collections, a small cafe, and a gift shop with wonderful works of glass art in all price ranges. Except for the Hot Shop, photography is not allowed inside the Museum.

As we left this mesmerizing place, we once more passed through the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. This time we paused to admire the Venetian Wall, an eighty-foot installation displaying a collection of some of the largest blown-glass works executed in the history of the medium. Here are 109 sculptures from three of Chihuly's series: Venetians, Ikebana, and Putti.

The Venetians are exuberant sculptures with origins in Venetian Art Deco glass. Ikebana are quiet pieces, created in the spirit of traditional Japanese floral arrangements.

Putti were popular figures in European art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and represent Cupid, the Roman god of love.

But, WAIT - we weren't quite finished! At the end of the bridge, the Union Passenger Station called to us. Opened in 1911 as a railroad station, this magnificent building gained a listing on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1974. It currently serves as a courthouse of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Tacoma Union Station was built in the Beaux-Arts style of architecture and designed by architectural firm Reed & Stem, who also designed famous Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The large rotunda inside the building is capped with a soaring 90-foot-high dome topped with a skylight, many walls are made of marble, and the floors are terrazzo. All of that is lovely, but we came to see more Chihuly glass art!

As soon as we walked in we noticed a large chandelier hanging from the center of the dome. This amazing work of art, called End of the Day, is made of hundreds of long tubes of glass... 

Monarch Window, another of the Persians Installations, is made up of orange discs mounted against a huge window.  As the light streams in, these are guaranteed to warm any day - even a gray one.

The Lackawana Ikebana is formed of a large metal gridded circle with hundreds of twisted glass pieces attached.

Another huge window frames the brilliant red Water Reeds which are a perfect match for the brick building across the street.

The fourth large alcove is a drawing wall filled with the Basket Mural.

What a perfect way to spend a gray, wintry day. I highly recommend you look around your own area for things you might not yet have seen or done. And when in doubt, be sure to ask the "locals" - they can surely point the way!

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  1. Beautiful, informative and well written! I can't begin to calculate the number of times I drove by this place going to and from and never took the time to stop and see it for myself. Now I have an idea of what a huge mistake that was! I am putting this on my list of things to do when I am back in the area for a visit. Thank you!

    Amy Sweet

  2. Wow - outstanding and amazing in photos - I can only imagine it in person. Must put that on our to-visit list.

  3. wow!!! amazing!! beautiful!!
    what a way to spend the day...i would be in awe staring at all that colorful glass! i love it! so magical.

    i've always wanted to try my hand at glass...sculpting or blowing....maybe some day...

  4. This is a wonderful post. I've been to the glass museum many times, but I didn't know all those facts and figures about it. Great photos and info!

  5. Love that colored glass ensemble at the top and the dancing clear glass in water. What a fun place to go!