When Dale Chihuly exhibited his glass art at Phipps in 2007, he left a lasting impact that would resonate with guests for years to come. Now, 10 years later, Phipps is excited to present a new glass art show, SUPER. NATURAL., created by Jason Gamrath, a master glass artist from Seattle.
Gamrath creates botanical pieces that are remarkably accurate representations of their living counterparts—only on a massive scale. Standing anywhere from six to 14 feet tall, his larger-than-life pieces are sure to amaze.
“Jason Gamrath’s oversized botanical work is at the forefront of the glass art world, and we are proud to exhibit his work,” says Jordyn Melino, exhibit coordinator at Phipps. “I have worked with Jason one-on-one to carefully curate the collection of art he will be bringing here, including a selection of brand new work to be exhibited at Phipps.”
The show will fill the Conservatory with 40 major installations, each of which was carefully selected for each room and location, and many of which were custom-made for Phipps. Imagine you have shrunk to the forest floor as you wander among the towering botanical artwork in nine display rooms. The Palm Court sets the stage for the show with pink and white orchid pieces ranging from 7 to 9 feet tall. These beauties are surrounded by peach, pink and lime green plantings that complement the art and wash the glasshouse in color.
The West Wing plays host to glass representations of some of our carnivorous and odiferous plants. The Serpentine Room has become a bog filled with 93 glass pitcher plants. Their blue and green-streaked figures stand in ponds of black water, a striking contrast of colors. Hot pink, lime green and purple foliage with blue accents fill the beds around the ponds.
Rooms that are not typically used for seasonal displays have transformed with the beauty of Gamrath’s glass art. In the Fern Room, a menagerie of red pitcher plants emerges from among the prehistoric ferns, and a Venus fly trap stands poised to clamp down on unsuspecting prey. Meanwhile, in the Orchid Room, an 8-foot lady slipper orchid stands tall, paying homage to our nationally renowned living collection. Plus, visit our Butterfly Forest to see the important pollinators fluttering among a life-sized glass corpse flower and a vibrant glass orange orchid. All of these stunning sights and more await at SUPER. NATURAL.
“I hope that the beauty of my work and the serene setting of Phipps will help guests to take a break from the bustling distractions of technology and day-to-day life, if only for a short time, and come back to nature—the very source of our existence,” says Gamrath.
Be sure to plan for both daytime and nighttime visits to admire these works from two vastly different, yet equally breathtaking perspectives. New lighting that was installed specifically for this exhibit creates an otherworldly glow on the glass that you won’t see by the light of day. See it for yourself Friday evenings until 10 p.m.
“The opportunity to work with Phipps is such a blessing and a perfect match,” says Gamrath. “We share a common goal to inspire through the beauty and power of the natural world.”
For the past year, Gamrath and his team have been working tirelessly to create the art for this show. He starts by sketching the flower and scaling it to massive proportions. Then, the hot stuff starts. In a furnace that is 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, Gamrath melts clear glass rocks to make up the shape of the flower — for one piece alone, he melted 1,000 lbs. of rocks! Color and patterns are added by dusting the glass with white powder in alternating layers.
After he removes it from the furnace, Gamrath uses a torch with a 5,000-degree flame to heat small areas of the glass so that they can be molded. He shapes them with a variety of tools, and he must be quick because the glass is only workable for a few seconds. When he is finished, Gamrath stores the piece in a furnace that brings the glass from 910 degrees to room temperature over the course of three days.
The work isn’t over yet! Rough, sharp edges must be grinded with a diamond-embedded wheel to make the glass smooth and shiny. For the last step, he moves to the metal shop where he creates the stem and leaves and connects them to the glass flower. Finally, he and his team carefully pack each piece for shipment to Phipps, where they can be enjoyed by you.
“This is a very exciting endeavor, and we are thrilled to bring this blockbuster exhibit to our guests!” says Jordyn. SUPER. NATURAL. Glass Art by Jason Gamrath is ope—see it now!
All photos from Phipps Conservatory.