Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Dale Chihuly Lends Little Seen Ulysses Cylinders to Community Library
Some of the Ulysses Cylinders are 15 and 16 inches tall. COURTESY: Chihuly Studio
Saturday, August 3, 2019


Dale Chihuly’s glass-blown Ulysses Cylinders have been shown only twice since he created them 44 years ago—once in Ireland and again at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

But the artist and his wife Leslie have chosen to show the art for a third time at Ketchum’s Community Library.

The vessels, which display pen and ink drawings inspired by James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” will be on display there through Jan. 10, 2020. And they will be among the highlights of the fifth annual Community Library LitWalk from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.

“I couldn’t be more proud that the Community Library is the third place in the world to exhibit these works. I’m astounded by the Chihuly’s generosity,” said Carter Hedberg, the library’s director of philanthropy.

Chilhuly had probably not planned on his glass creations seeing so little public exposure when he  developed the Ulysses Cylinders in 1975.

He created them as part of a 45-cylinder series speckled with gold leaf that he called the Irish Cylinders that was inspired by his friend Seaver Leslie’s newfound love of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,”

He fused glass thread drawings of Leslie’s into the 16 Ulysses Cylinders.

The glass thread fusion was a new glassblowing technique that Chihuly had begun experimenting with after he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle in 1971. It involved fusing thin spaghettini  rods of glass directly to hot glass vessels during the blowing process. When done wire-thin drawings appear on the curved surfaces of the vessels.

The Irish Cylinders were completed in anticipation of a lecture tour in England and Ireland. But in January 1976 Chilhuly and Leslie were involved in an automobile accident in Gloucestershire, England. Chihuly was badly injured. His recuperation took months and he eventually lost sight in one eye.

The Irish cylinders were put in storage in the United States, eventually winding up in the private George R. Stroemple collection.

It was only in 2015 that the two artists took the Ulysses Cylinders—the largest part of that series—out and showed them at Dublin Castle and Vassar College.

The impetus for the Community Library exhibition was the result of a chance meeting Carter Hedberg had with Leslie Chihuly at Cristina’s during the Christmas holidays.

The Chihulys have been visiting Sun Valley for many years, with Dale Chihuly even talking about his work during a crowded appearance in the Community Library’s lecture hall several years ago.

Leslie Chihuly told Hedberg about the work she did in Seattle with the symphony and other nonprofit organizations. Hedberg couldn’t help but tell Leslie Chihuly about the $13 million renovation going on at the library. She accepted his offer to visit and see what was happening at the library for herself

“It was December and the library was a mess with all the construction going on. But she could see through it to have a vision for how the front entrance would look,” recounted Hedberg.

Shortly afterwards, the artist and his wife offered to let the library exhibit the work. They sent two technicians to help set up the exhibit, even designing mounting temporary lighting tracks in the ceiling according to Dale Chihuly’s instructions to make the cylinders to glow.

Hedberg said the library plans to offer outreaches to schoolchildren based around the cylinders and Ulysses’ Odyssey. And he hopes to have Leslie Chihuly speak about it, probably in December.

“What’s so interesting is watching people come in and look around at these luminous vessels,” he said. “One was a young man in his 20s who’d just gotten a library card--he took a picture of that library card in front of one of the cylinders. Another was a 12-year-old girl who was so excited because she recognized one of the Egyptian characters in the cylinders. It’s interesting to see how the it inspires people in different ways.”


Dale Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the Studio Glass Movement and elevating the perception of glassblowing as fine art. He has created ambitious architectural installations around the world, including Chihuly Over Venice.



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