Oklahoma City has a B-grade art museum anchored by an A+ Dale Chihuly collection. I don't know what it is about this area of the country and Chihuly (who hails from Washington State), but on this week-long trip we saw Chihuly's work in each of the three states we visited: The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas; the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in Oklahoma; and the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA for short) has the most stunning Chihuly piece I have seen to date: the 55-foot-tall Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower, a tribute to one of the founders of the museum. It is impossible to get the whole thing in a single photo, so I did my best to put two pictures together here to give an idea of its grandiosity:
It fills the three-story atrium at the front of the museum, capitalizing on the light that streams in through the front windows. Even if the day is cloudy and gray, as it was when we were there, the tower has a peculiar luminosity all its own.
In addition to the tower, the OKCMOA has one of the largest collections of Dale Chihuly art in the world. And did I say it is in Oklahoma? Call me a snob, but I would not have expected that. We decided to save the best for last and headed first towards the special exhibit of contemporary Chinese art.
The rest of the museum covers a period of five centuries, with focus on American and European art from the 19th through 21st centuries. There were a few gems, including this Henry Moore work entitled Bronze Head (1963),
Those are all great artworks, but they are the usual types found in any decent art museum. However, as previously mentioned, what really sets OKCMOA apart is its Dale Chihuly collection. How these wonderful pieces ended up there is a great story.
In 2002, to celebrate the opening of its new facility, OKCMOA commissioned the aforementioned 55-foot-tall tower of swirling glass. In addition, the museum brought in a large collection of other works by Chihuly for a temporary show. The exhibit was so popular with patrons that the museum purchased the entire show with the help of over 500 donors, and in 2004 it became a permanent part of OKCMOA's collection. (Note: Mr. Chihuly's then girlfriend and now wife had roots in Oklahoma City, which may have helped with negotiations.)
My favorite installation is the hallway topped by the Oklahoma Persian Ceiling (2002). Walking down this 8-foot-wide and 40-foot-long corridor is like being in the most exotic, magical underwater scene you can imagine. Light streams through more than 500 vividly colored glass pieces and shines on the walls and floors, and although they are fixed, there is a sense of movement created by the layering and the undulating lines within and around the shapes.
|Photo from here|
I've seen the Chihuly ceiling in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, and it is stunning, but the intimacy of this ceiling makes it unique.
|Oklahoma Persian Ceiling, 2002|
|Like Tiffany, Chihuly has also dabbled in painting. Nuutajarvi Drawing, 1995|
I would love to know what the inspiration for these two boats was. One is full of other-worldly sea plants, and the other holds a hundred or more perfect spheres, each a different size and design.
|Ikebana Boat, 2002|
Creative genius at its best.