Reflecting on creative genius

On a recent trip to Seattle I was able to visit Chihuly Gardens and Glass, an indoor/outdoor exhibition of the glass works of Dale Chihuly. The very first room of the exhibit struck a familiar chord with me. On one wall hung a collection of indian blankets layered upon wooden ladders. On another, a collection of photographs of Native Americans from the early 1800s. I frequently see similar blankets, patterns and photos in my home of New Mexico. In fact, it was as a teacher at the Institute of the American Indian Arts in Santa Fe that Chihuly found inspiration for his Navajo Blanket Cylinders.

Glowing in the studio lights, however, was something both familiar and very, very different. The traditional Navajo patterns, colors and threads were now reinterpreted in beautiful glowing glass. The woven baskets, now woven with light.

Dale Chihuly showed early artistic excellence and received classic training in his field at a high level. In 1968 he received his M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design – where he would later teach. A Fulbright Fellowship allowed him to work and study in Europe. With an invitation from architect Ludovico de Santillana, son-in-law of Paolo Venini, Chihuly became the first American glassblower to work in the prestigious Venini factory on the island of Murano.

According to his web site, a key shift occurred in 1977. “Breaking with 2,000 years of glassblowing history, he begins a lifelong pursuit of organic and asymmetrical forms, using fire, gravity, and centrifugal force to help shape his work.”

It is here that I find a powerful lesson to apply to my own work. The true magic of creative genius lies in talent and technical mastery coupled with unique vision, passion, and daring to break the rules.  To be creative you must look at the same thing in a new way. To solve a problem you must approach from a different angle. To create change, you must change perspective.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

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