Decorative glass is making a renewed, up-to-date appearance at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
It’s the culmination of an artful collaboration between Biltmore and a team representing Dale Chihuly.
“We wanted our guests to have an evening experience in the garden,” says Parker Andes, Biltmore’s director of horticulture. “We were looking at guests coming though for a whole day and then extending their experience.”
The result is an installation of 15 of Chihuly’s colorful and exotic glass creations, mingling in the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – and even in the interior Winter Garden designed by Richard Morris Hunt.
They’re dramatic. “We knew Chihuly had been successful in other gardens, and had a following,” he says. “He knew how to work with gardens and understood some of the challenges that come with that.”
For Andes, coming to grips with modern art in a traditional environment was the biggest challenge. “It was the idea of very modern art – everything else is representative, like sculptures and busts,” he says. “For me it was a struggle, but I saw how well it had been done in other gardens.”
Complex installations in one section of the landscape, though, won him over. “In the Italian Garden, the floats tie in on an esoteric level, with color, light and form,” he says. “There are different looks at different lights and times of the day.”
There, visitors will find plant life, decorative glass, water flowing in the ponds – and fish that offer the art of movement. “You get reflections because of the water, and that adds another element,” he says. ”There are more layers in that display.”
The installations meander a quarter mile down through Olmsted’s meticulously designed terraces, all the way to the conservancy and back up. And they’re decidedly enhanced by their environment. “We planted in the areas where they are, and designed and laid out the colors to complement the pieces and not the other way around,” he says.
One can’t help but think that Biltmore’s progenitor, George Vanderbilt, would approve of Chihuly’s work. After all, there’s stained glass from Tiffany and LaFarge throughout the estate.
So Chihuly’s work could be viewed as an evolution of those two masters.
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