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This is an archival record of the Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem art project (1999-2001). The dispatches are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent dispatch first.



In the Light of Jerusalem



At The Tower of David Museum

of the History of Jerusalem

Also known as the Citadel


Dispatches and images by William Warmus

These dispatches and images were delivered "live" over the internet on or near the dates indicated






October 5,1999

Dale Chihuly returned to Jerusalem to erect a Wall of Ice. See Jerusalem and Wall of Ice on this site.





July 5 1999 Episode: A visit to ancient Petra

A visit to ancient Petra in Jordan made an impression on Chihuly in the 1960s. I visited the site after the opening of the Chihuly installation: for some images, click on the photo at right. Chihuly's love of stone surfaces, not to mention his ambition to a monumental scale, probably owe something to the impact of this fantastic place whose major monuments are carved from the living rock.

Now I better understand Chihuly's placement of the sculptures in the Tower of David Museum: the fragile and highly colored glass is thrown into high relief against the indestructible stone walls of the fortress, smoothly liquid surfaces juxtaposed against roughly hewn rock for dramatic effect.


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The ancient "Treasury" at Petra


July 2, 1999 Episode: The End, The Beginning


We had expected 1500 people at the opening last night: more than 2500 attended. Right is an image of the finished installation as it looked just before the visitors began arriving.

Notice the Crystal Mountain at left (pink) with people beside it for scale; in front of the Crystal Mountain, the Red Spears; in the right foreground, the White Ball with Blue Feather Tower just behind it. The Turkish Minaret is at top center.

Immediately at right,  a thumbnail of another  high resolution image, as seen from a high perch behind the 47 foot tall Blue Feather Tower. It's a view of Shosh (Director of the Tower of David), Dale and the Mayor of Jerusalem during the opening, surrounded by a few of the 2500 guests. We were sad when the lights dimmed and the crowd dispersed, the team returning to Seattle today. But as the museum reminds us, the exhibition is just beginning, and Chihuly returns in the Autumn for more installation work (Who knows? Maybe ice along the Dead Sea?).

Watch this space for an update and essay about the Jerusalem 2000 project.







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Chihuly before speaking at the opening





Overview of the completed installations.

Click to view high-resolution image

July 1 Episode: No Time for Melancholy

Just as I was having a conversation with Peter West about feeling sad that we are all about to split up (most of the team leaves for Seattle Friday morning), Mark McDonnell told me that the New York server for my web pages had crashed! So, dear reader, there will be no dose of melancholy today. Instead, I spent my time re-publishing my web site.

I did have time to include the first image of Dale, Leslie and Jackson from inside the Crystal Mountain.

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Left to right: Jackson, Dale, Leslie inside the Crystal Mountain


June 27and 28 Episodes: White Tower and E-mail


Among the newest additions to the group of Chihuly sculptures going up in Jerusalem is the White Tower, nicknamed by some the Medusa Tower. The color is unusual for Chihuly: more opaque than most large scale installations, and a close inspection (you'd of course have to be here to do that) reveals that the arms have been engraved with oval cuts.

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The main Chihuly web site  ( receives e-mail from viewers of (or visitors to) its pages. One arrived recently and was forwarded to me in Jerusalem. I especially like the final sentences.



I have been visiting this site for months now, ever since I saw a PBS special on Chihuly. I am still amazed when I look upon the works displayed here. They are simply beautiful. They are inspiring in ways that I can't even express to other people, except to say that it makes me feel "full of life" just to gaze at them. I hope to see his work in person one day. Just once would last a lifetime, I'm sure. But for now, I'm just glad this site is here. I'm really nobody special, just one of a million people on this world wide web. But if whoever reads this could pass my joy and thanks on to Dale Chihuly, it would be greatly appreciated. Joy because that is just one of the emotions his work stirs in me, and thanks just for bringing this into the world.

I tried to interest a friend of mine in this, and his response was, "What? It's just glass.". "Yes" I said, "Isn't it amazing???".

Thank you for your time.

Laini Bree Richards


June 25 Episode: Rock Pigeons

A pair of Rock Pigeons has taken up a perch in the Blue Feather Tower at about the second story level. What does that mean? It may have no meaning--the meaning of Chihuly's work is itself a point of discussion among the members of the team and those who write about the work.

I think the work resolutely has no meaning. I was talking to Steven Cochran (he works on lighting and installation) about this earlier today--he had been asked by a visitor about the meaning of one of the sculptures going up and replied with words to the effect that "its the only thing around here that doesn't have any meaning--it is a big, vibrant thing but it has no meaning." If Chihuly is a member of the avant-garde (itself something of a rear-guard nowadays) it is because he refuses symbolism in his work, resists statement, denies narrative.

This doesn't mean that Chihuly denies the viewer the right to fantasy. The intoxicating beauty of some of the works, like the Red Spears (see image below) may lead us to imagine ourselves in some ancient crusader castle (Hey! we ARE in some ancient castle!!!), but that is our own personal fantasy. Meanwhile, the artist is off elsewhere, exploring realms of sensation and experience in some remote land beyond our dreams.




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Two extremes of the project:

Industrial strength and Infinite delicacy: Mohammed arc welding the armature of the Crystal Mountain, where each strut is capable of supporting the weight of a person, versus the incredibly fragile glass edges of the 47 foot tall Blue Feather Tower, which as we saw above can just support the weight of birds.

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Citadel Layout



The little schematic at right depicts the Citadel and the locations of a few of the major installations, identified with my shorthand notations: The Ball, Mountain (or Crystal Mountain), Tower (or Feather Tower) and the Red Spears (Moved by Dale to their new location leading towards the Crystal Mountain). The Tower is inside the walls; the Ball is on the terrace below the word Ball. The 17th century Turkish minaret, visible in many photos, is also identified, as is the Jaffa gate. Their are other installations such as the floats in the pits that won't fit on my schematic.

The Jaffa gate area is where all the action is: traffic enters the wall here, and it is where we take breaks for Turkish coffee or fresh squeezed orange juice or to head back to the hotel. Just beyond the gate (upper left black area) is the entrance to the amazing labyrinth of streets that form the market of the city and that lead into and open out onto the Western wall, Dome of the Rock, and Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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Remaining episodes are preserved just below in their original format--just scroll down.....

                                                 Thursday June 24 Episode: The Mayor

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Teddy Kollek, past Mayor of Jerusalem, visits.

He is pointing at the Crystal Mountain as Chihuly makes a drawing


Wednesday June 23 Episode

Red Spears!

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Tuesday June 22 Episode

The Jerusalem warehouse containing the empty boxes and crates, and maybe some glass, burned down today. Sorry--I don't have a digital image or any other information.

Monday June 21 Episode

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Reflections on the Work and on a saying by Rabbi Tarphon: 8 PM Monday

I think that today is both the longest day of the year and the mid-point of the team's work on the project. Jerusalem is very hot and even brighter, and there has been a curious lull in the work, as we wait for an essential but very late container shipment to arrive and as Chihuly ponders what to do next, how to approach certain problems. One big problem.

Will there be enough chunks of acrylic (the pink crystals) to cover all the wedges of the Mountain to sufficient depth? This is   a major concern, both because the chunks are really expensive just as pure material (about $100-$300 each) and because, anyway, it is too late to make more--we have "just" 1200 of them. That means 120 per wedge.What to do if the result seems meager?

So I go back to my room and glance at the Cornell graduation address that has been tucked away in a drawer. Given by the literary critic Harold Bloom, it is a meditation on a saying by Rabbi Tarphon and I brought it with me because it bears on our project here in Jerusalem:

"It is not necessary for you to complete the work,

but neither are you free to desist from it."

The project here is overwhelming, and as Bloom comments, "If it were necessary for any among us to complete the work, then we might break off in despair, because the work can never be completed." Combining the words of Tarphon and Bloom tonight in Jerusalem, I realize that it is the team that saves us from despair, because alone we can never complete the work.

And in fact by 4PM today, the team did just that: following Chihuly's suggestion, they formed a human chain of crystal haulers and filled in the three wedges, and Yes! The density works....the Mountain will indeed signal crystal and not appear hollow. Now, of course the new worry is about the crowds it may attract at the end of the Millennium....


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Chihuly pondering the problem; the team taking action

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Three wedges complete: With nine more, we think the density will work

Mountain and Tower Episodes:

June 16 and 17

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Crystals conquer the Mountain! Wednesday afternoon at 5 PM. The images above give some sense of the scale of the Crystal Mountain. The short rods are welded at odd angles to receive the chunks of crystalline material. The team is populating one wedge with crystals so Dale can take a look and decide what to do next. There are 12 such "wedges" or sides to the Mountain, which is 33 feet tall. Below, Dale looking, the Mountain in his eye.

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The major event of the day was the removal of the scaffolding from the Blue Feather Tower: 48 feet tall, 2000 pieces of glass (for the year 2000?), it descends 20 feet into the archeological substructure of the Citadel, its base surrounded by stone shot launched by siege machines against the fortress.

I have a pronounced fear of heights, but I went up on the hydraulic lift to make the photo at right of John Landon, putting the finishing touches on the top of the tower. John (Dale's friend from the founding days of the Pilchuck school and before) has been providing project and installation direction in Jerusalem for the Blue Tower.


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Tuesday June 15 Episode

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With the Chihuly crew at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. A mass of visitors squeezes to ascend the steep and narrow stairway that leads up to Golgotha, the "place of the skull" (Mark 15): Calvary.

They say here that everywhere else you die and decay but that in Jerusalem you die and mingle. To experience what this means, visit immediately upon arrival the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher.

The artwork of Chihuly is set into the fabulous context of the Tower of David museum with its gigantic Herodian tower. It respects the location--indeed, the installations have been placed with great care for the archaeological context-- but it can not avoid mingling within the vast religious, political and historical labyrinth of this ancient city.

Monday June 14 Episode

The team is immersed in preparing the structures that will receive the glass, such as the massive Crystal Mountain, shown in detail above with welder (you can just see Philip Stewart, who coordinated the manufacture of the armatures with the fabricator Zion Nachmani in Jerusalem, in the image at lower right).

Image below: They tell me this is "technical rigging." I call it Robin Coomer rappelling down the exterior wall of the Citadel in order to attach a bracket that will receive glass. There are maybe fifty such brackets for the walls.

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Friday June 11 Episode

I just arrived! Give me time to connect from my hotel room (the Knight's Palace) and take some photos! I have to connect a power converter, telephone adapter, surge suppressor, load the Ipass account---you get the idea....O.K. I'll give you one photo: the first thing I saw upon arriving at the Citadel, about 10:30 AM Friday: Parks Anderson and the crew lowering a box full of glass into an archaeological pit. Notice that the box is going INTO the pit: a reversal of traditional archaeology where the day's finds are lifted OUT.

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Hit the buttons below to read past dispatches or a general overview

Project Overview          Early Dispatches