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Glass artist Dale Chihuly's exhibit takes inspiration from Arizona's desert landscape


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: In the desert of Arizona, you can visit one of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright`s homes, but for the past few months, the site has also been home to an installation by glass artists Dale Chihuly. Special correspondent Mike Cerre looks at how the work of these two artists came together amid the rugged landscape.

Mike Cerre: For generations Arizona`s deserts have attracted and inspired American artists and creatives. It was here that architect Frank Lloyd Wright, built his iconic winter home Taliesin West in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. It`s now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, where Nikki Stewart is head of engagement.

Nikki Stewart, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: Taliesin West has a long history of artists and architects living and working here, but not a very long history of doing art exhibitions.

Mike Cerre: Glass artists Dale Chihuly and admirer of rights incorporation of design with nature is the first artist allowed to display his work at Taliesin West.

Dale Chihuly, Glass Artist: Oh yes, it`s a dream come true. I mean, Taliesin West is such an incredible complex, and it`s really a great honor to be able to make six installation.

Mike Cerre: The exhibit name Chihuly in the Desert, includes his Alabaster and Amber interpretation of desert flora and read reads and bulbous glass floats in the surrounding pond.

It took four years of working and reworking the designs between the Taliesin team in Arizona, and the Chihuly Studio team in Seattle, where the thousands of handblown glass pieces with installations were made. Dale Chihuly`s wife Leslie is the head of Chihuly Studio and Workshop.

Leslie Chihuly, Chihuly Studio: The idea was to really work in concert with nature to first notice the nature appreciate the surroundings and site works and site architecture in a way that was complementary to and not dissonant to the beautiful natural surroundings.

Mike Cerre: She says her husband`s fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright started in college where Dale Chihuly originally studied architecture before becoming a class artist.

Leslie Chihuly: I think it`s very much a dance of heat and light and it`s a dance of vision. And it`s a dance of experimentation, playfulness, building on ideas. And you can see even if you look at the works around this property, the two of them both have a real curious mind and a hungry mind when it comes to beauty, beautiful objects and then placing things within the, you know, interior and exterior settings.

Nikki Stewart: They`re both inspired by the natural world by nature, and they feel like the organic architecture of the world, of nature, of the trees and the ground and the mountains should determine how either the building or the sculpture sits in its space.

Mike Cerre: 30 minutes south of Wright`s home is Phoenix`s Desert Botanical Garden, where Chihuly`s desert interpretations were first displayed in 2008.

Elaine McGinn, Desert Botanical Garden: I think that you could refer to it as the agave on steroids.

Mike Cerre: Elaine McGinn is director of Experience at the Botanical Garden, which collaborated with Taliesin West, on this Chihuly desert exhibition currently on display at both locations.

Elaine McGinn: You see the agave is a much shorter form. But the spiky points of it, the way it catches the light, and also the elongation that he creates really drawing your eye to it.

Mike Cerre: Visitors from around the country have their own reactions to this mix of art and desert.

Stephanie Katzman, Visitor: I was really surprised at how beautiful the juxtaposition of the art and nature was.

Man: I have a boat in the middle of desert filled with all these colors. At first glance, you would say, well, this isn`t indigenous to the desert at all.

Elaine McGinn: Every color that you see in this boat, you can find here in the garden. The orange of some of the cactus flowers that are blooming. And then we`ve got greens and yellows and reds.

During the day the light is reflected off of this the sunlight, and it changes and transforms throughout the day. As we get to the sunset, the sunlight becomes more subdued, the lights that are on each of the installations starts to come on and illuminate the pieces and the colors shift, the forms become more evident as you`re looking at the pieces. So it`s a very different experience.

Sastry Vedantam, Visitor: It is really very good combination of no natural plant and some combination with some artificial things with tall wood very well. Very well designed.

Mike Cerre: As popular as the exhibit has been, there were concerns about how Chihuly`s art would work with rights, austere architecture, and the environment.

Nikki Stewart: There may have been some concern about what the final effect would be. Because for so long, people have come here to see Frank Lloyd Wright`s architecture in a desert landscape without interference.

Leslie Chihuly: You can have any kind of experience you want. You can enjoy Taliesin without the Chihuly and you can have an experience of Taliesin with the Chihuly. And you get to decide.

Mike Cerre: Actually, do you think this kind of punctuates the beauty of the plants? Or does it detract from it?

Olivia Donaldson, Visitor: I think it just stays with it. It`s like a nice -- it`s a nice contrast with it.

Elaine McGinn: They do see the artwork, and then their eyes just naturally goes to the plants and then becomes about the garden and sort of their own discovery.

Mike Cerre: For "PBS News Weekend," I`m Mike Cerre.

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