The Art of Our Seas

Fish, marine mammals, sea turtles, mollusks, crustaceans, seaweed, coral reefs and many more living beings share this planet with us, all underwater. Here is a colorful look at different kinds of art celebrating Earth’s sea creatures.

If you have ever spent time exploring the wild waters below the ocean’s surface, you know what inspires sea art. It’s a world of quiet, endless wonders; and one that we still think about it when we’ve come back onto land.

If you have not been under ocean water, there is plenty of art to highlight the sea’s magnificence. We have talented artists to thank for that.

Once you physically submerge underwater, the cares and thoughts of your life on earth seem to melt away. Talking and human noises drift off with the waves, and even gravity quietly vanishes.

I once snorkeled over a giant clam in the Great Barrier Reef. There were no voices guiding me toward it, no signs or crowds. It was just the giant clam and me. It was nestled in the sandy sea bottom and I was perhaps 50 feet above.

At first it looked like a brown blob, but I found it intriguing and slowed my strokes, and then recognized the outside scalloped shape as something different.

When I realized it was a giant clam, I hovered over it for quite awhile, but it never moved, and eventually I swam on. I have no photos, only memories, of this experience.

But fortunately I have Dale Chihuly’s elegant version of the bivalve mollusks, to remind me.

This American glass sculptor of world renown has created enormous sculptures celebrating the endless variety of colors and shapes in the sea world.

Born in Washington State and influenced by the Puget Sound, Chihuly has mastered unusual glass art embracing his passion for the sea and nature.

This is a gallery room in Seattle’s museum devoted exclusively to Chihuly art: Chihuly Garden and Glass. It is entitled Persian Ceiling and is a ceiling installation of glass “seaforms,” to use his word.

When you stand in this room and look up, it is the next best thing to floating among the tropical fish and coral reefs.

More info: Dale Chihuly Wikipedia.

Although I am not a scuba-diver, I have had terrific snorkeling experiences. In Australia you have to be taken out in a boat beyond the shore to get to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the boats we were on also featured an underwater photographer as part of the package. His camera was huge, not much smaller than a dive tank. These underwater photos are his.

From them you can see how real-life underwater scenes like these two below…

… can be translated into art like Chihuly’s. They bring the glory and mystery of the sea alive.

In addition to glass sculptures and wall paintings, sea art comes in many forms–too many to present here. If you live in or have visited seaside towns, you see it everywhere.

San Francisco, the City by the Bay, showcases a lot of sea art, and not just in galleries.

This staircase in San Francisco was a 2005 neighborhood project. Various fish, seashells and sea stars dance in the blue mosaic pieces. From the top of these steps is an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean.

Miles away at the Ferry Building, the inside promenade is decorated with tiles. My favorite is this octopus.

The Maritime Museum, also in San Francisco, is a monument to ships and sea art.

Now part of the National Park Service, the museum’s interior walls are covered with underwater murals created during the 1930s by Sargent Johnson and Hilaire Hiler. Exterior walls include sea-themed facades and tile work, all of it funded by then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.

This octopus chair (below) on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is a whimsical salute to the sea. It is joined by several other brass chairs entitled Rotunda by the Sea, by Guadalajaran sculptor Alejandro Colunga.

There is so much life and wonderment in our planet’s seas. Any way that the glory of the sea can be highlighted, is yet another way to express the importance of its gift and survival.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexandria unless otherwise specified.

Blaring Red Trumpets

Chihuly glass sculpture

Chihuly Trumpet sculpture (Space Needle in the upper left corner)

This robust sculpture resides in Seattle, at the base of the Space Needle.  A tower of scarlet glass trumpets, it stands over six feet tall, at Chihuly Garden and Glass.


The artist, Dale Chihuly, was born in Tacoma and has spent many years in the Pacific Northwest.  The entire exhibit is a permanent collection, displayed indoors and out.


I spent a wet and rainy day at the museum in Seattle last year, and it lit up the gloom in the most extraordinary way.  The garish colors, colossal sculptures, and outrageous creativity are a true indoor marvel.  Then you go outdoors, and more brilliance awaits.  Info here.


Outside there is a refreshingly unique garden studded with glass plants and this sculpture, an edifice of glaring red blaring trumpets.  Click here for more of Athena’s photos of the Chihuly Garden exhibit, part of a series I wrote.


What I like most about this wild, one-eyed sculptor and his art is his message:  be bold, be brave.

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


Chihuly Photos, Series 4 of 4

Chihuly Collections Cafe

Chihuly Collections Cafe

A restaurant filled with hanging accordions!  Today is the last of the Chihuly series, featuring the Collections Cafe.  All this week I have been sharing the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit that I had the opportunity to visit in Seattle over the recent holidays.

This is the restaurant inside the museum.  I would not have been inclined to go in (it’s not very noticeable from inside the museum) except that a friend at the Christmas party, a Seattle resident, told us about the innovative displays and delicious food.

Dave Chihuly has extensive collections of things that reside inside this Cafe.  The biggest and most bold of the collections consists of two or three dozen vintage accordions.  They all hang down from the ceiling, high above the diners who sit at the tables enjoying the exquisite cuisine.  That is what’s in this photo.

When you first walk toward the long and narrow restaurant, a wall of hundreds of bottle openers greets you.  They’re from college days and other places along his path.  We were seated at one of the far-back tables so we had the opportunity to walk the entire length of the restaurant and view all the collections.

Chihuly Collections Radios

Chihuly Collections Radios

On one wall are dozens of colorful antique radios in a shelved display.  Other interesting collections are displayed in the tables.  Many of the dining tables are a display case built underneath the glass tabletop.  Displayed inside the table were many small articles, neatly displayed, with a whimsical and colorful theme.  There were Christmas decorations at one table, transistor radios at another, small cameras, old tin toys, shaving brushes–all displayed in these table cases.  But there was only so long you could hover over some poor stranger’s Brie and Pear Ravioli to study the collection in their table, ha.

It was a dark and rainy day and even though there were large windows to the outdoors, by 3 pm it started to get darker.  That was when I could take my eyes off the collections and enjoy the brightly-lit wall of his drawings.  The theme of the entire exhibit echoed here in the restaurant too in the form of a back-lit wall  (see left side of first photo) of 36 drawings.  The riotous colors and unique designs of Dale Chihuly’s drawings came alive.

I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I enjoyed showing you around.  I’ve received comments during the week from many people all over the world who relayed their experiences and glowing reviews of Chihuly exhibits they had visited.  This makes me smile.  It’s always great to witness appreciation and reverence for a brilliant artist living in our time.

[All photographs in this series courtesy of Athena Alexander; no reproduction or usage without permission.]

Chihuly Photos, Series 3 of 4

Chihuly Garden Entrance

Chihuly Garden Entrance

Earlier this week I gave an Overview of the Chihuly exhibit at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle.  The next day I gave you an inside look at a few of the sculptures in the Exhibition Hall; and today we will take a stroll outside into the Garden.

Years ago I founded, owned, and managed a landscaping company, so I spent all my waking hours studying garden design; and yet I have never seen a garden like this.  I find this Chihuly Garden intriguing because it borrows the light of the skies and reflects it in the glass sculptures.  Vibrant on a rainy Seattle day, the colors are striking and bold and the textures display a rare combination of real and surreal.

Chihuly Garden ferns

Chihuly Garden ferns

Since the Exhibition Hall is like a conservatory, when you’re inside it you can see out to some of the sculptures in the garden, always with the immensity of the very cool Space Needle right next door.  The ferns in this photo are glass sculptures!

Chihuly Garden and Glasshouse

Chihuly Garden and Glasshouse

Living in the Bay Area where earthquakes can rattle our bones, I found it incredulous that these magnificent glass sculptures were out in the rain, cold, and other unpredictable susceptibilities.  It must be stunning after a snowstorm, and night time, according to the photos, is brilliant.  In an outdoor airway (on left in final photo) there were massive chandeliers  hanging over the walkways.  In our last steps through the garden, I gazed up and admired each chandelier, hoping to return here sometime at night; but this earthquake-damaged person chose to stand off to the side rather than directly underneath, ha.

Tomorrow is the last of the series, we’ll check out the Collections Cafe.

Chihuly Photos, Series 2 of 4

Chihuly Sealife Overview

Chihuly Sealife Sculpture

I’m sharing a look at some photos of my trip to the Chihuly Museum in Seattle.  Yesterday I gave an overview of the museum visit in Series 1 of 4, and today I present some photos from inside the Exhibition Hall.  The photo captions are the terms that Chihuly chose for his exhibit.

These four photos are in different rooms of the interior segment of the exhibit.  Every room in this segment was intricately lit to enhance the colors and features of each individual glass sculpture.  The lighting of this exhibit must have taken months to set up, it is impeccable.

Since this was all fragile glass and there were no ropes restricting people, the few children that were in here were noticeably quiet and well-behaved…I think because a parent would lose their house and everything in it if anything got broken…ha.

Chihuly Sealife Close-up

Chihuly Sealife Close-up

This sculpture in the Sealife Room was a colorful, winding mass of colored glass intended to look like underwater sea life.  I found kelp, anemones, sea stars and much more.  The room was very dark except for this glowing kelp forest that throbbed with life.

The Mille Fiori was on a reflective platform, also in a dark room.  All you could see, besides the other patrons, were these flowers of glass in varying sizes.  Mille Fiori is Italian for “a thousand flowers.”  You could walk around the entire display, and even though it was on a platform only about a foot off the ground, some of the glass pieces towered over my head.

There was a room with breathtaking chandeliers, one with textiles and glass sculptures that mimicked the textiles, copper-colored octopus and other glass sea creatures, and even a boat filled with round glass floats.

Chihuly Mille Fiori

Chihuly Mille Fiori

I leave my very favorite of the indoor exhibit for last, though I thoroughly enjoyed all the art.  This was called the Persian Ceiling.  It was glass pieces in an array of bright colors, all arranged in the ceiling of the room.  Spotlights from the rafters pierced through the glass and into the room where we all stood.  I liked this one best because the walls and floor were radiating with color from the objects in the ceiling.  It felt like we were standing inside a kaleidoscope.

Chihuly Persian Ceiling

Chihuly Persian Ceiling

I am a devoted scholar of light.  Being a novelist, I think my love of light comes from noticing so many details.  And in watching light wherever I go, no matter what time of day, I see so many beautiful scenes and shadows in this world.  Glass captures light, and colored glass brings light to life.

Tomorrow we’ll visit the Garden….

Chihuly Photos, Overview, Series 1 of 4

Chihuly Museum Glasshouse with Space Needle

Chihuly Museum Glasshouse with Space Needle

I mentioned in my previous post Sparkling Seattle how much I enjoyed the Chihuly Exhibit; this starts my 4 part series of photos from the exhibit.  I had seen the Chihuly Exhibit when it came to the deYoung Museum in San Francisco in 2008, and enjoyed it so very much.  To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time in art museums because big cities are not my favorite thing to do.  I much prefer wildlife adventures.

But over the holidays I had the pleasure of spending Christmas week with friends in Seattle, and in between our marathon baking sessions, friends, and visiting, we chose one museum adventure.  I love colored glass, I love this man’s art, and our host had not yet been to the museum so we ventured to the Chihuly Museum.

Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptured art is featured in his own museum called Chihuly Garden and Glass.  It opened in 2012.  Born in Tacoma and partly schooled in Washington, this Museum is an enormous tribute to his fine glass work.  It is in the Seattle Center right next to the Space Needle.  Some of his indoor glass works I had seen at the rotating exhibit in San Francisco.  But a second part I had not seen, it was displayed in a newly built 40 foot tall glass and steel structure called The Glasshouse.  This photo was taken in there.

A third section of the exhibit is outside The Glasshouse in an exterior garden installation that is phenomenal.  It is glass sculptures integrated into a landscaped garden at the base of the Space Needle.

Last but not least, there is a Cafe in the museum that features his personal collections, this is really fun and creatively displayed.  The man has collected a variety of items over the years (an eccentric?) including bottle openers, transistor radios, and accordions.  The Cafe, which has really excellent food, is called Collections Cafe and is also featured in this series.  I will feature photos of the Exhibition Hall, The Glasshouse and Garden, and one of the Cafe too.

If you cannot get to a Chihuly exhibit, I hope these photos will grace you with some of the magic of his glass expression.