Installing Chihuly in the Desert
Kyle Dockery | Jan 16, 2022
Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator, recalls his November trip to Arizona to assist in the installation of Chihuly in the Desert. Normally based at Taliesin in Wisconsin, the visit was an opportunity for Kyle to return to Taliesin West for the first time since 2018.
This November I was honored to spend 3 weeks living and working at Taliesin West to help install our half of the exhibition Chihuly in the Desert. I normally work at Taliesin in Wisconsin, looking after our collection of art and furniture, but had not come down to work in Arizona since October 2018. It was nice to return, see familiar faces, and meet many of the new ones in person.
During this trip I lived in Desert House, perhaps the most conventional residence at Taliesin West. It’s a short walk uphill from the historic core, just enough to make it feel isolated. The house has full height windows along its north side that fill it with light during the day and a south facing patio with excellent sunset views. The desert masonry makes it clear that it could not be anywhere but Taliesin West, including the key embedded in the wall near one of the fireplaces.
While the Sonoran landscape is always beautiful, I was saddened to see how the desert landscape has been damaged by recent drought conditions worsened by climate change. On one of my walks around the property I noticed a massive two-trunked saguaro that had recently lost one of its trunks, with the other leaning precariously. The next day after a windy night I walked by and saw that the other trunk had fallen and an impressive, very old cactus had finally passed.
I encountered lots of desert wildlife whether sitting at home or walking the grounds. One night, the night of the lunar eclipse, I rushed out seeing the moon rise over the mountains in the most spectacular way but had the scare of my life when a rattlesnake loudly let me know he was slithering along the edge of the patio. I let him continue on his way and still ended up snapping a pretty good picture a few minutes later after the patio was clear.
Installing the Chihuly exhibition itself was a challenge but a smooth and enjoyable one thanks to all the preparation done by the staff at Taliesin West and the Chihuly Studio team long before I arrived to help and thanks to all the hard work of our volunteers. This is the first time we’ve done an art installation like this at Taliesin West and judging by everyone’s reactions I hope that it will be the first of many such exhibitions. It provides a new way to experience and interpret the site and puts Chihuly’s work into a new context as well, revealing the similarities between his and Frank Lloyd Wright’s remarkable talents. . Consider making a reservation to check out Chihuly in the Desert at Taliesin West or at the Desert Botanical Garden, the show runs until June when I’ll be back in the heat to help pack up the exhibition.