Desert Art – Chihuly’s Neodymium Reeds and Black Niijima Floats

Chihuly's Neodymium Reeds 2013

Chihuly’s Neodymium Reeds © 2014 Bo Mackison

I love botanical gardens, I love the desert, and I love Dale Chihuly’s huge glass art installations.

When I discovered that the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix was hosting another Chihuly exhibition I made plans to attend. As members of the Gardens, we made advance reservations for the 4 pm to 8 pm slot on a recent Friday evening. Choosing the later hours gave me opportunity to photograph the many exhibits during daylight, at dusk, and in the dark when the sculptures were illuminated.

Chihuly's Neodymium Reeds 2013

Chihuly’s Neodymium Reeds © 2014 Bo Mackison

In Finland we started making these long, cylindrical pieces that looked like spears. This was an exciting new form. It was the first time we ever made anything like that. Sometimes I call them spears and sometimes I call them reeds. They can be taken anywhere—they can go outside. They are very strong pieces, and they are very dramatic. ~ Dale Chihuly

There were at least a dozen installations, large installations featuring intricately shaped glass art.

Since I had the luxury of time, and perfect weather, I studied each installation from several different perspectives. I tried to see each installation as a whole, from a distant path or in the desert setting amidst saguaro and organ pipe cacti. Then I experimented, moving closer and closer until I could take a close up of a part of each installation.

Chihuly's Neodymium Reeds 2013

Black Niijima Float © 2014 Bo Mackison

This particular installation featured reeds and floats.

There were nearly a hundred glass reeds in varying hues of purple, and in opalescent, dotted, and clear glass. There were several globes, Black Niijima Floats, set among the reeds.

Half Globe

Half Globe © 2014 Bo Mackison

The black floats were among my favorites.

I loved how the globes captured the reflections of the adjacent purple reeds, the overhanging palo verde, and the cacti.

Chihuly Globe

Chihuly Globe © 2014 Bo Mackison

I’ve never done anything like the Floats. They are probably the most monumental-looking, since there’s no reminiscence of a container shape. Just because they are so big, the Floats are technically, or let’s say physically, the most difficult things that we have ever done. Even though a sphere or a ball is about the easiest form you can make in glass, when you get to this scale, up to forty inches in diameter, it becomes extremely difficult. ~ Dale Chihuly

It is an amazing concept, studying these black floats, these perfect globes shimmering with gold and silver leaf, and visualizing their creation as blown glass.

More  Chihuly: Cattails in the Garden

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Sounds pretty awesome

  2. I love that I’m being introduced to this area. My only interaction with the desert has been during several trips to N.M. – where I lost my heart to its beauty. Arizona is at the top of my list to explore. thanks for sharing this beauty Bo.

  3. This is stunning–both the glass art and your photos.

  4. Whoa. I could live there among those purple reeds and black floaters, the palo verde and cacti. Those reflections make my mouth water. How did you tear yourself away? Looking forward to seeing your night photos! This is simply incredible!

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