Chihuly Installation
Illuminated at night, the 17 glass pieces that compose “Sunfire Persian” appear to float like jellyfish.

Chihuly Install setup Daryl Smith, the glass blower who executed these visions from Dale Chihuly, holds one of the pieces up to the light. In 1976, Chihuly suffered an eye injury that affected his depth perception, so he relies on artists such as Smith to bring his ideas to life.

“Sunfire Persian” is a gift from Mark Anderson ’78 and famed glass artist Dale Chihuly.

What do the Museum of Modern Art, the Louvre and Whitman’s Cordiner Hall all have in common? As of Oct. 14, 2011, all three feature pieces by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Adorning the large vertical windows above Cordiner’s main entrance, this latest installation is called “Sunfire Persian” and is composed of 17 individual pieces of glass. The installation can be seen from the street and will be illuminated after dark periodically for the community to enjoy.

Chihuly Unveiling 2 A crowd gathers in the Cordiner Hall foyer to celebrate the unveiling of "Sunfire Persian."
Chihuly Unveiling Prof. Julie Charlip, center, gestures toward the art while speaking with her sister, Welty Student Health Center nurse Lindsey Charlip, RN, and Prof. Bob Withycombe.

“Imagine turning sand, the cheapest substance in the world, into that!” said Mark Anderson ’78, local artist and president of the Walla Walla Foundry, quoting Chihuly himself. “If that’s not alchemy, what is it?”
“Sunfire Persian” is part of Chihuly’s acclaimed Persian series, which is inspired by Middle Eastern glassworks of the 12th to 14th centuries and draws inspiration from art nouveau and classical Greek, Byzantine, Islamic and Venetian styles. This is the first of two major gifts to the college from Chihuly and Anderson. The second gift, a 16-foot-tall bronze Ikebana flower sculpture, will be produced by the Walla Walla Foundry in cooperation with Chihuly this spring.

The installation complements the already rich history of Cordiner Hall, which was constructed in 1968 in honor of Ralph J. Cordiner ’22 and remains the largest indoor performance space in Walla Walla with more than 1,380 seats.

“We are delighted to further enrich this wonderful legacy with new artwork,” President George Bridges said.

Kynde Kiefel, exhibitions and collections manager for Sheehan Gallery, said “Sunfire Persian” adds a new dimension to Cordiner.
“You can’t not look at the building now,” she said. “I do feel like it really adds a light and a blooming aspect. There’s a new growth to the building itself.”

— Gillian Frew ’11