There is one special piece of art in the world that makes me feel Christmassy instantly. And, it’s not even a Christmas-themed piece. However, it was Christmas time in the early 2000s when I first saw Dale Chihuly’s sculpture, “The Olympic Tower” at Abravanel Hall in SLC. A red glass tree-looking thing, I assumed it was a Christmas tree. Since then, I have gone out of my way daily for a decade to catch a glimpse of it through symphony hall’s windows as I go motorin’ around downtown.
Dale Chihuly is a one-eyed glass sculptor from the Pacific Northwest. He was blinded on the left side in a car accident in England in the 70s. My own one-eyed painter, Todd, was born without rods and cones in his left eye. It’s interesting that someone who lacks fifty percent of their eyesight would devote their life to the visual arts (rather than becoming a pirate, which would be a more logical option). Chihuly also hurt his shoulder while body surfing and can’t hold up a glass blower’s pipe.* But he makes do, getting other folks to do the heavy lifting. In one news interview, he describes his choice to sit back in the director’s chair of glass blowing as “being more choreographer than dancer.”
Chihuly’s sculptures have found homes all over the world, even in places where Christmas is not such a big deal, like the Middle East. He is wildly successful and some folks consider him to be more entrepreneur than artist. I don’t know about that, I just know that if I want to feel the Christmas spirit, I need go no further than Abravenel Hall to see one of Utah’s treasures, that I will always consider my own personal Christmas tree.