Over the years, I've cultivated a grudging respect for Dale Chihuly's glass art. It's hyper-commercial, it's cheesy, but I'll be damned if it isn't breathtaking if you can suspend disbelief for a moment (I'd like to think I'm a master of suspension). Chihuly himself seems insufferable, a strutting, gruff, macho type of dude who tends to go into "deep thoughts" mode when the camera turns on him (The David Blaine of the glass world?) However, I teach art appreciation classes sometimes, and Chihuly is a great way to approach the Art/Craft debate, and to show students that artists don't necessarily have to be puffing on the old "glass pipe" to create their work. Better Chihuly than freakin' Thomas Kinkade, I always say. Patchy is currently flexing his legal muscle by suing two ex-employees for making work that "infringes" on Chihuly's "trademark" shapes. Ugh. Yesterday's edition of The New York Times profiled the court case, discussing glass-geek minutiae about "lip wraps" and "ripples". Chihuly claims that he isn't in it for the money, but we all know that he's rather fond of the stuff.
Can you copyright nature? Chihuly needs to realize the territory that comes with dominating his field. SLATE magazine online just recycled an article from 1999 about the ubiquity of Chihuly's work in the Pacific Northwest, and that ubiquity has only grown in the intervening years. The article is well worth checking out if you're thinking about your own fraught relationship with Chihuly...or glass. Oh, and Dale--Long John Silver called....he wants his eyepatch back. See you in court, sucka!