CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (May 15, 2009) – The grand opening of Jellies: Living Art has created a new pulse of excitement at the Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum of American Art. The two organizations have teamed up to showcase jellyfish, some of the most mysterious creatures on Earth, alongside breathtaking glass sculptures inspired by nature.
Upon entering the Aquarium’s Ocean Journey building, visitors find themselves immersed in a glimmering world of animals and art, beginning with a colorful collection of Dale Chihuly’s macchias.
“They are very colorful, free-form and complement the visual our guests get as they look into the tanks and see the different colored jellyfish with their free forms and other-worldly appearance,” said Jackson Andrews, the Aquarium’s director of husbandry and operations.
If guests dive deeper, they’ll learn that macchia is an Italian word meaning ‘spotted’ which is a fitting description for these striking pieces.
“These works have a variety of beautiful colors with exteriors spotted with many colors on each piece,” said Ellen Simak, the Hunter’s chief curator. “The shape of the macchia is round and ruffled, echoing the shape of a jellyfish bell.”
Six species of jellyfish capture the imagination as they pulse in specially designed exhibits illustrating how the jellyfish and the art share common characteristics of color, pattern, movement and rhythm. In one portion of the gallery, displays filled with moon jellies surround guests in an endless swarm of jellies. In another area, slowly pulsing sea nettles dance a watery ballet.
Sharyl Crossley, the senior aquarist who cares for the new jellies, quickly points out that each species has a unique lifestyle. Upside-down jellyfish for example, are the oddballs in the group. These animals have algae living within their tissues, so they are gathering and producing food while lounging on their backs with tentacles pointing skyward. But they aren’t the only sun-loving species in the new gallery.
“The blubber jellies range in color from kind of tannish white to sky blue to a dark blue,” explained Crossley. “Their color intensifies with exposure to light. Researchers believe this is like a sunscreen they employ to shade them from the light.”
These delicate and mysterious creatures of the deep have intrigued people and fueled artistic expression for centuries. The Jellies exhibit also showcases the work of four glass artists who were inspired by sea life. Tommy Spake’s work was directly influenced by a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium, while Cork Marcheschi creates glowing vessels of ‘living light’ which are displayed next to the refractive ‘living light’ displays of sea walnuts.
Guests will also marvel at the way Stephen Rolfe Powell infuses glass with bold colors to create works that appear to flow with a graceful motion and rhythm.
“Powell’s works have beautiful, colored patterns on the exterior and wonderful organic shapes that are reminiscent of jellyfish,” Simak said. “In fact the necks of his pieces, which are called screamers, have the same sensuous curves as the oral arms of some of the jellyfish in the exhibition.”
Guests can listen to the artists describing their works by dialing into the Aquarium’s bi-lingual cell phone audio tour.
While no living animals will reside at the Hunter, Dale Chihuly’s fabulous “Laguna Murano Chandelier” has dozens of crystal sea creatures entwined among the kelp-like design.
“This installation is extremely exuberant and massive,” said Rob Kret, the Hunter’s executive director. “It fills almost an entire gallery, taking up 1,500 square feet of space. The sea-themed chandelier is a nice extension of the Aquarium experience.”
In addition to the “Laguna Murano,” the Hunter will exhibit some of Chihuly’s sketches which are not commonly seen on public display. And visitors to the Hunter will also marvel at other glass installations by William Morris, Karen Lamonte and Stephen Rolfe Powell.
This collaborative effort promises to draw visitors to downtown Chattanooga where they are encouraged to relax and enjoy all that the pedestrian-friendly “Scenic-City” has to offer. The Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum are located on the Chattanooga riverfront and linked by a short walking corridor which leads guests through an outdoor sculpture garden and across a unique glass bridge.
“I think Jellies: Living Art represents a great opportunity to capitalize on the assets of an accredited art museum and an accredited aquarium, located just a short walk from one another,” said Kret. “Cultural institutions such as ours create the opportunity for people to unplug a little bit and enjoy each other’s company while seeing something that they wouldn’t normally see. And I think this exhibit will be a magical surprise for visitors.”
Thom Benson 423-785-3007 - Tennessee Aquarium – firstname.lastname@example.org
Katrina Craven 423-752-2070 – Hunter Museum – email@example.com
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $21.95 per adult and $14.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $27.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Excursions aboard the new River Gorge Explorer depart daily into “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.” Cruise tickets are $29.00 per adult and $21.50 per child (3-12). Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.
ONLINE press kits & downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Newsroom.asp
The Hunter Museum of American Art inspires and excites imaginations through the visual arts. The Hunter Museum is located at 10 Bluff View in Chattanooga and is open every day except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The Hunter Museum is open until 5 p.m. and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. For more information the public may call the Hunter at (423) 267-0968, or visit the Web site at www.huntermuseum.org.
ONLINE newsroom: http://www.huntermuseum.org/about/newsroom/