The news media loves to circulate stories of brazen museum visitors who get too close to the objects in their midst, causing some degree of harm to priceless art and antiquities. The more valuable the art, the more headlines, and the more dramatic the damage, the more shame we in the audience can heap on the hapless fools. Sensational news stories are one thing; real life “please do not touch!” incidents at FWMoA are another.
A trio of vibrant, eye-catching glass sculptures from the FWMoA permanent collection have recently been put on display in the museum's Karl S. and Ella L. Bolander Gallery. These large, multihued vessels--featuring undulating rims and exteriors spotted with bright pops of color--are from renowned studio glass artist Dale Chihuly's Macchia series. Once you've taken in the visual brilliance of these works, though, you may find yourself wondering: What exactly is a "macchia?" It is an Italian word--derived from the Latin macula--that means "stain," "spot," or "speck;" it can also be used in reference to Mediterranean shrubland. (For the coffee lovers out there: Yep, it is also related to the drink called caffè macchiato, which could be translated as "coffee stained or spotted (with milk).") Looking at how these sculptures are "specked" or "stained" with color, it's possible to understand why Chihuly named this series Macchia. But is there anything more to the word beyond this, especially in relation to art history and technique?