Malibu Seen

A GLASS ACT

Actor Pierce Brosnan and wife Keely Shaye Smith were among the art lovers who stopped by Pepperdine University’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum to eye the magnificent glasswork of Dale Chihuly. “We’ve seen Chihuly before,” said Shaye Smith, “It’s just beautiful.”

The opening night preview drew Chihuly fans from near and far. Ruthie Russ, who drove in from Laguna Beach with her chauffeur, describes herself as a “little” collector. “I’ve been collecting for 20 years,” said the diminutive sixty-something who has the look of everyone’s favorite aunt. “He’s exciting, he’s colorful … he’s sexual, too. Can I say sexual?” This is Pepperdine, but heck, as long as Ken Starr isn’t around, it’s all right by me.

How many pieces do you have I inquired. “Oh dear, I have a very big house, but it’s filling up fast,” she laughed. OK, let’s get down to it, I pressed. How much are they worth? “I don’t want to tell you what I paid for them,” she said with a casual wave of the hand, “but I know what they’re worth today and there are a lot more zeros.”

Other art collectors came from as far away as Berlin. One pair of German imports couldn’t be missed. One female, one male, both as Bic-ed as close as marine recruits with matching pink satin slip dresses, pink faux fur capes, pink plush toy purses, stockings, heels and loads of blue eyeshadow. Paris Hilton-eat your heart out.

Even celebrities and fashion statements couldn’t compete with the real star of this show. Chihuly, with his wiry mop of hair, trademark eye patch and paint splattered sneakers was the center of attention. In what almost resembled a red carpet moment, photographers flashed away, fans fawned and admirers angled for autographs.

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Over the course of four decades, Chihuly has become a superstar in the art world and has redefined the way we see glass. It’s easy to see why. Everywhere you looked psychedelic pieces of glass were twisting and twirling, floating like towering stalks of seaweed, or exploding like a flock of butterflies on LSD. The guru of glass never fails to hypnotize his audience with his dazzling gems-organic free flowing shapes, wildly imaginative patterns, colors that reach out and grab you in neon shades of lime green, lemon yellow, electric blue, tangerine, crimson and gold.

With the exception of three small pieces that were for sale at the front desk, the exhibit had no display cases. “Scary isn’t it,” Brosnan said. “You just wonder if someone’s going to go … whack.” That image didn’t sit well with Shaye Smith, an avid glass collector of Venetian glass. “I’ve been to the factories in Murano many times,” she explained. “After the earthquake, I just cried.” I consoled her with a few words about the joys of museum wax and the necessity of a return trip to Venice.

But no one held a conversation for long, we were all too busy being mesmerized by the extraordinary beauty all around us-the baskets, the Persians, the 18-foot tower and the 10-foot chandelier. It’s a magical, Oz-like, Alice in Wonderland, out of this world experience that’s a must see. The Chihuly show at Pepperdine runs through March 20. Don’t miss it!

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