Magic & Light in Oklahoma City

“Glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way.”

-Dale Chihuly

It’s eight months today since I took my one way flight to Oklahoma City to start a new adventure.

After having spent thirteen years, cumulatively, away from my beloved Melbourne, and eleven of those in Houston, a new city was both exciting and daunting.

Compared to other moves, it was rather a soft landing really. Still in the United States, and only 400 miles away from North Houston where I would be maintaining my residence in Texas too, it would be the best of both worlds; the drama and intrigue of a new start in a new city, while maintaining the comfort, stability, and ties of my adopted home.

Oklahoma and her City have captured my heart quickly. The parallels and similarities between the Texan and Oklahoman cultures are equal in number to the differences. And it is a joy to be learning more and more about the sometimes subtle contrasts everyday.

There is a rich and storied history in this State and this City and so much to learn and experience. The opportunities that Oklahoma City offers continue to amaze and delight.

Not least of which is the permanent Dale Chihuly collection at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA). The largest anywhere in the world.

My Father was born in a small town just outside of Venice in Italy. And perhaps because I grew up knowing about the hundreds of years of Venetian glass makers, or perhaps because my (maternal) Aunt gave me a cherished Venetian blown glass pendant gift that she’d purchased on a trip to Venice when I was just nine years old, or perhaps because it is etched deeply within the mysterious folds of my Father’s, and thus my own DNA, I have always been drawn to blown glass and glass art in a way that I find difficult to describe.

Once, about ten years ago now, on a business trip to Calgary, Canada, a colleague and I decided to do some window shopping one evening. We happened upon a store called Circa. A carefully curated collection of glass art and decor from Europe’s 50’s and 60’s blown glass fashion and design houses. I literally started hyperventilating as we entered the store.

I left there with my most expensive (to date at that time, still, and likely for the rest of my life!) piece of art. A twenty-five pound blown glass vase from Venetian artist Stefano Toso. I hand carried that thing back to Houston. It remains my most prized possession.

But back to Oklahoma City and the Museum of Art.

When I accepted the job in Oklahoma City, and when I decided to live downtown, and when I selected the apartment building I now live in, I had no idea that I would be just a couple of blocks away from an art museum home to a permanent collection of one of the world’s greatest acclaimed blown glass artists, certainly the most accomplished US blown glass artist of our time, Dale Chihuly.

The level of sophistication that the OKCMOA offers is not an aberration in this place. Art is serious business in Oklahoma City. And this is evident all over the town. It’s been a careful and deliberate shift over the last few decades with the help of a number of groups including the IAO (Individual Artists of Oklahoma) and the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, to name a couple.

Chihuly’s 55 foot tall Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower in the OKCMOA foyer is a triumph. This sculpture enjoys great prominence and draws many crowds and out of town visitors.

But it is the Magic & Light exhibit upstairs on the third floor that is just that – magic and light. And within the exhibit, the Oklahoma Persian Ceiling that holds the most magic for me.

For starters, the strange contrast between Oklahoma and Persia is enticing all by itself. For those who know my penchant for paradox and juxtaposition, and the history behind my personal meaning in the name Magenta Blues, you will know how this thrills me.

And then, there is the beauty of Chihuly’s work. The organic shapes and structures that defy gravity and order, bending this way and that, with shifting lines of color and reflection that are dizzying and confusing and yet somehow so pleasing to the eye. And if the beauty of the glass doesn’t grab you, and you are still non-plussed, the sheer volume and vastness of work packed into that small space will. It must.

Magic and light.

And joy.

Joy so warm and enveloping, and comforting, you will want to return over and over again.

Oh yes, Oklahoma City, with your kind people, your wide skies, your wild weather and your love of the Arts, I will be finding joy in the magic and light of your community and your majestic sunsets for quite some time I believe.

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