Loading the Canon #1: Museum Glass

Loading the Canon #1 by Helena-Anne Hittel

Museum Glass

I don’t like art. I LOVE it. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I go through museums or galleries in hours, maybe even days depending on the exhibit. I read every single label or bit of information presented and try to spend as much time as possible in front of a work before, reluctantly, I am forced to move on (and yes, sometimes, I have to be forced). It was no surprise, then, that when my family planned a trip to St. Petersburg, FL, I could not have been more excited. Why St. Pete, then? Simple. We were to go see the absolutely amazing Chihuly collection at the Morean Arts Center.

The first stop on this trip was almost accidental, but since the Chihuly collection was a short walk away, we dropped into the Museum of Fine Arts for a while.

Did you ever get a feeling, just thinking about the Acropolis in Athens, that if you were to walk there, you could very well have been walking the same steps Aristotle did? The MFA was a bit like that for me. I saw things on the walls in this museum that I had only seen in lectures and textbooks. I stood in front of Monets, a Cezanne, a Rodin, and so many others whose names are the stuff of legend. It was surreal to imagine that the canvas I stood in front of a few Saturdays ago was the same one in front of Paul Gauguin hundreds of years ago. It’s almost like meeting your rock stars. They actually existed. They drew breath and put paint on this canvas. They were HERE. Not in this location, but they were alive and in front of the same canvas.

I read every label and freaked out over every name I remembered from lecture (respectfully, of course. This was, after all, a museum) until it was time to go. We made our way across the street and walked into, finally, The Chihuly collection.

A few years back, I had watched a documentary called Chihuly in the Hotshop, in which my favorite eyepatch-wearing hero could be seen in action. There he was, making his amazing glass! The works were a sight to behold, but documentaries don’t do them justice. This got me wondering where I could see the real thing. Dale Chihuly lives and works in Seattle, WA, and has a gallery in Las Vegas. Apart form the impressive sculpture in the lobby of the Orlando Museum of Art, his works weren’t terribly accessible to me until 2010, when the Morean Arts Center opened a collection of his work to the public.

Fast forward to June 15, 2013. To say that this collection was amazing is a terrible understatement. The scale, the colors and the concepts were made all the better by the proximity. I was so close I could literally breathe on the glass, but I wouldn’t dare. It was the same feeling I got from the MFA. I had only ever seen these things from a distance before, and here the were now, in front of me.

I wasn’t able to hit the Dalí Museum on this trip. I had been in 2009 on a bowl trip with the Marching Knights, but I hadn’t been back since the renovation. My parents, who had planned the trip, had lived for some time in Washington, D.C., where museums were plentiful and admission was free. Not the case in Florida, sadly, but, admission fees or none, I’ll be damned if I didn’t have an amazing experience.

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida


Helena-Anne Hittel (Episode 35, essay) is an Art History Major at the University of Central Florida and Intern at the UCF Art Gallery.

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