At the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, light streams through vitrified pigmented sand:
From Louis Comfort Tiffany, Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl, a piece made in about 1893. Tiffany’s use of glass to evoke the birds’ colorful and varied head patterns is stunning.
Sadly, the work now stands as an unwitting eulogy. By 1910 the Carolina Parakeet was extinct in the wild and the eastern US had lost its only native parrot. A few lingered for half a dozen years in zoos, but these individuals died without leaving offspring. Occasionally, the birds’ reflections surprise us with a gleam in museum galleries, but their light is almost entirely gone.
A few steps away, Dale Chihuly’s Lime Green Icicle Tower (2011) uses some of the same palate, but without direct representation and, I hope, presaging of extinction.
The piece is 40 feet high, about 10,000 lbs of glass in conversation with the sun, the museum’s atrium windows, and the vegetation outside. From some angles, inner and outer reflective surfaces combine and tangle. Intended or not, this creates a coda to Tiffany’s work: what we conceptualized as Nature is now, whether we like it or not, wrapped into Humanity. Understanding this, might we, perhaps, perhaps, snuff and shadow less light?