Best Bets: Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens

June 19 2014, 4:04 PM

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"Float Boat" (2014; image courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens) contains 67 individual "floats" (or balls).

One of the first Chihuly encounters you'll have upon entering the Gardens.

Dale Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens

We had to share: The supercool shoes Chihuly wore on his Denver visit.

"Monet Pool Fiori," 2014

"White Tower," 2014; image courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens

At the north end of the Japanese garden, "Blue and Purple Boat" is filled with 185 glass pieces (frogs feet, balls, and eelgrass—titles Chihuly gives to different styles or forms). 

"Float Boat" (2014; image courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens) contains 67 individual "floats" (or balls).

One of the first Chihuly encounters you'll have upon entering the Gardens.

Dale Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens

We had to share: The supercool shoes Chihuly wore on his Denver visit.

"Monet Pool Fiori," 2014

"White Tower," 2014; image courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens

At the north end of the Japanese garden, "Blue and Purple Boat" is filled with 185 glass pieces (frogs feet, balls, and eelgrass—titles Chihuly gives to different styles or forms). 

I've never seen a blown glass design by Dale Chihuly that I didn't like. Credited with transitioning studio glass from a craft to a recognized fine art, Washington-born Chihuly's more than four decades of experience has made him one of the most lauded glass artists in the world. Since 2001, he has created works specifically for garden exhibitions (Chihuly's mom was an avid gardener). Denver Botanic Gardens (DBC) hosts the latest edition of Garden Cycle—the first major outdoor exhibition of the artist's work in the region—through November 30. 

Some of the pieces are older, but many were created specifically for the DBC. They range from small floating features to a tower of blue icicles (aptly named "Blue Icicle Towers") containing 650 separate icicles to "Summer Sun," a massive red/orange/yellow burst of joy that weighs about 3,500 pounds. They were shipped in six containers from Tacoma, Washington, and it took 11 Chihuly Studio team members 11 days to do the installation. (Fun fact: Though the works are incredibly fragile, according to Lennon, the team's loses less than one percent of the pieces to breakage.)

As you stroll through the gardens—the works are spread among 14 sites—some pieces, exploding with color, will stand out among the flowerbeds. Others seem to blend into the environment as if they'd always been there. Which is precisely where Chihuly's genius comes in: crafting manmade artworks with such vibrant and thoughtful colors—"Dale says he's never met a color he didn't like," says Chihuly Studio publicist Janet Lennon—as to feel as much a part of the nearby environment and architecture as they are separate. "No one else has done what he does so well," says DBC CEO Brian Vogt. "It's an art form that is so organic." 

Tip: The works will be illuminated at night, providing an entirely different perspective. From October 3 through November 30, the Gardens will stay open late (5:30 to 9 p.m.) for Chihuly Nights. Tickets are $10 and include general admission. 

While You're There: Check out the venue's new restaurant, Hive Garden Bistro, and swing by the Science Pyramid, which will open later this summer. 

Get a sneak peek at what you can expect at the Gardens by clicking through the slideshow above.

Even More Chihuly: If you live further south, check out more than 50 pieces on display as part of Chihuly Rediscovered (on view through September 28) at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs. Bonus: the FAC and DBC have teamed up so when you buy a ticket to one Chihuly exhibit, you get $5 off the show at the other venue. And—as if you needed more—Pismo Fine Art Glass in Cherry Creek is showcasing new Chihuly works as well, through August 10; the opening reception will be held on July 12 (though the exhibition is already on view). 

Follow associate editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.